A hat full of sky, p.28
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       A Hat Full of Sky, p.28

         Part #32 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
 
Page 28

 

  He doesnt know binkers from bonkers, though, said Tiffany. Well, memory fades, said Mistress Weatherwax. She stopped and leaned against a rock. She sounded out of breath. Are you all right, mistress? said Tiffany. Sound as a bell, said Mistress Weatherwax, wheezing slightly. Just getting my second wind. Anyway, its only another six miles.

  I notice youre limping a bit, said Tiffany. Do you, indeed? Then stop noticing! The shout echoed off the cliffs, full of command. Mistress Weatherwax coughed, when the echo had died away. Tiffany had gone pale. It seems to me, said the old witch, that I might justve been a shade on the sharp side there. It was probly the voles. She coughed again. Them as knows me, or has earned it one way or the other, calls me Granny Weatherwax. I shall not take it amiss if you did the same.

  Granny Weatherwax? said Tiffany, shocked out of her shock by this new shock. Not technicly, said Mistress Weatherwax quickly. Its what they call a honorific, like Old Mother So-and-so, or Goodie Thingy, or Nanny Whatshername. To show that a

  witch has . . . is fully . . . has been- Tiffany didnt know whether to laugh or burst into tears. I know, she said. You do?

  Like Granny Aching, said Tiffany. She was my granny, but everyone on the Chalk called her Granny Aching.

  Mrs Aching wouldnt have worked, she knew. You needed a big, warm, billowing, open kind of word. Granny Aching was therefor everybody. Its like being everyones grandmother, she added. And didnt add: who tells them stories! Well, then. Perhaps so. Granny Weatherwax it is, said Granny Weatherwax, and added quickly, but not technicly. Now were best be moving. She straightened up and set off again. Granny Weatherwax. Tiffany tried it out in her head. Shed never known her other grandmother, whod died before she was born. Calling someone else Granny was strange but, oddly, it seemed right. And you could have two. The hiver followed them. Tiffany could feel it. But it was still keeping its distance. Well, theres a trick to take to the Trials, she thought. Granny - her brain tingled as she thought the word - Granny has got a plan. She must have. But . . . things werent right. There was another thought she wasnt quite having; it ducked out of sight every time she thought she had it. The hiver wasnt acting right. She made sure she kept up with Granny Weatherwax. As they got nearer to the Trials, there were clues. Tiffany saw at least three broomsticks in the air, heading the same way. They reached a proper track, too, and groups of people were travelling in the same direction; there were a few pointy hats amongst them, which was a definite clue. The track dropped on down through some woods, came up in a patchwork of little fields and headed for a tall hedge, from behind which came the sound of a brass band playing a medley of Songs from the Shows, although by the sound of it no two musicians could agree on what Song or which Show. Tiffany jumped when she saw a balloon sail up above the trees, catch the wind and swoop away, but it turned out to be just a balloon and not a lump of excess Brian. She could tell this because it was followed by a long scream of rage mixed with a roar of complaint: AAaargwannawannaaaagongongonaargggaaaa BLOON! which is the traditional sound of a very small child learning that with balloons, as with life itself, it is important to know when not to let go of the string. The whole point of balloons is to teach small children this. However, on this occasion a broomstick with a pointy-hatted passenger rose above the trees, caught up with the balloon and towed it back down to the Trials ground. Didnt used to be like this, Granny Weatherwax grumbled as they reached a gate. When I was a girl, we just used to meet up in some meadow somewhere, all by ourselves. But now, oh no, it has to be a Grand Day Out For All The Family. Hah! There had been a crowd around the gate leading into the field, but there was something about that Hah! The crowd parted, as if by magic, and the women

  pulled their children a little closer to them as Granny walked right up to the gate. There was a boy there, selling tickets and wishing, now, that hed never been born. Granny Weatherwax stared at him. Tiffany saw his ears go red. Two tickets, young man, said Granny. Little bits of ice tinkled off her words. Thatll, er, be, er . . . one child and one senior citizen? the young man quavered. Granny leaned forward and said: What is a senior citizen, young man?

  Its like . . . you know . . . old folks, the boy mumbled. Now his hands were shaking. Granny leaned further forward. The boy really, really wanted to step back but his feet were rooted to the ground. All he could do was bend backwards. Young man, said Granny, I am not now, nor shall I ever be, an “old folk”. Well take two tickets, which I see on that board there is a penny apiece. Her hand shot out, fast as an adder. The boy made a noise like gneeee as he leaped back. Heres tuppence, said Granny Weatherwax. Tiffany looked at Grannys hand. The first finger and thumb were held together, but there did not appear to be any coins between them. Nevertheless, the young man, grinning horribly, took the total absence of coins very carefully between his thumb and finger. Granny twitched two tickets out of his other hand. Thank you, young man, she said, and walked into the field. Tiffany ran after her. What did-? she began, but Granny Weatherwax raised a finger to her lips, grasped Tiffanys shoulder and swivelled her round. The ticket-seller was still staring at his fingers. He even rubbed them together. Then he shrugged, held them over his leather moneybag and let go. Clink, clink . . . The crowd around the gate gave a gasp, and one or two of them started to applaud. The boy looked around with a sick kind of grin, as if of course hed expected that to happen. Ah, right, said Granny Weatherwax happily. And now I could just do with a cup of tea and maybe a sweet biscuit.

  Granny, there are children here! Not just witches! People were looking at them. Granny Weatherwax jerked Tiffanys chin up so that she could look into her eyes. Look around, eh? You cant move down here for amulets and wands and whatnot! Itll be bound to keep away, eh? Tiffany turned to look. There were sideshows all around the field. A lot of them were funfair stuff that shed seen before at agricultural shows around the Chalk: Roll-a- Penny, Lucky Dip, Bobbing for Piranhas, that sort of thing. The Ducking Stool was very popular among young children on such a hot day. There wasnt a fortune-telling tent, because no fortune-teller would turn up at an event where so many visitors were qualified to argue and answer back, but there were a number of witch stalls. Zakzaks had a huge tent, with a display dummy outside wearing a Sky Scraper hat and a Zephyr Billow cloak, which had drawn a

  crowd of admirers. The other stalls were smaller, but they were thick with things that glittered and tinkled and they were doing a brisk trade amongst the younger witches. There were whole stalls full of dream-catchers and curse-nets, including the new self- emptying ones. It was odd to think of witches buying them, though. It was like fish buying umbrellas. Surely a hiver wouldnt come here, with all these witches? She turned to Granny Weatherwax. Granny Weatherwax wasnt there. It is hard to find a witch at the Witch Trials. That is, it is too easy to find a witch at the Witch Trials, but very hard to find the one youre looking for, especially if you suddenly feel lost and all alone and you can feel panic starting to open inside you like a fern. Most of the older witches were sitting at trestle tables in a huge roped-off area. They were drinking tea. Pointy hats bobbed as tongues wagged. Every woman seemed capable of talking while listening to all the others on the table at the same time, although this talent isnt confined to witches. It was no place to search for an old woman in black with a pointy hat. The sun was quite high in the sky now. The field was filling up. Witches were circling to land at the far end, and more and more people were pouring in through the gateway. The noise was intense. Everywhere Tiffany turned, black hats were scurrying. Pushing her way through the throng, she looked desperately for a friendly face, like Miss Tick or Miss Level or Petulia. If it came to it, an unfriendly one would do - even Mrs Earwig. And she tried not to think. She tried not to think that she was terrified and alone in this huge crowd, and that up on the hill, invisible, the hiver now knew this because just a tiny part of it was her. She felt the hiver stir. She felt it begin to move. Tiffany stumbled through a chattering group of witches, their voices sounding shrill and unpleasant
. She felt ill, as though shed been in the sun too long. The world was spinning. A remarkable thing about a hiver, a reedy voice began, somewhere in the back of her head, is that its hunting pattern mimics that of the common shark, among other creatures- I do not want a lecture, Mr Bustle, Tiffany mumbled. I do not want you in my head! But the memory of Simplicity Bustle had never taken much notice of other people when he was alive and it wasnt going to begin now. It went on in its self-satisfied squeak: - in that, once it has selected its prey, it will completely ignore other attractive targets- She could see right across the Trials field, and something was coming. It moved through the crowd like the wind through a field of grass. You could plot its progress by the people. Some fainted, some yelped and turned round, some ran. Witches stopped their gossip, chairs were overturned and the shouting started. But it wasnt attacking anything. It was only interested in Tiffany. Like a shark, thought Tiffany. The killer of the sea, where worse things happened.

  Tiffany backed away, the panic filling her up. She bumped into witches hurrying towards the commotion and shouted at them: You cant stop it! You dont know what it is! Youll flail at it and wave glittery sticks and it will keep coming! It will keep coming! She put her hands into her pockets and touched the lucky stone. And the string. And the piece of chalk. If this was a story, she thought bitterly, Id trust in my heart and follow my star and all that other stuff and it would all turn out all right, right now, by tinkly Magikkkk. But youre never in a story when you need to be. Story, story, story . . . The third wish. The Third Wish. The third wish is the important one. In stories the genie or the witch or the magic cat . . . offers you three wishes. Three wishes . . . She grabbed a hurrying witch and looked into the face of Annagramma, who stared at her in terror and tried to cower away. Please dont do anything to me! Please! she cried. Im your friend, arent I?

  If you like, but that wasnt me and Im better now, said Tiffany, knowing she was lying. It had been her, and that was important. She had to remember that. Quick, Annagramma! Whats the third wish? Quickly! When you get three wishes, whats the third wish! Annagrammas face screwed up into the affronted frown she wore when something had the nerve not to be understandable. But why do-?

  Dont think about it, please! Just answer!

  Well, er . . . it could be anything . . . being invisible or . . . or blonde, or anything- Annagramma burbled, her mind coming apart at the seams. Tiffany shook her head and let her go. She ran to an old witch who was staring at the commotion. Please, mistress, this is important! In stories, whats the third wish! Dont ask me why, please! Just remember!

  Er . . . happiness. Its happiness, isnt it? said the old lady. Yes, definitely. Health, wealth and happiness. Now if I was you Id-

  Happiness? Happiness . . . thank you, said Tiffany, and looked around desperately for someone else. It wasnt happiness, she knew that in her boots. You couldnt get happiness by magic, and that was another clue right there. There was Miss Tick, hurrying between the tents. There was no time for half- measures. Tiffany pulled her round and shouted: HelloMissTickYesImFinel HopeYouAreWellTooWhatlsTheThirdWishQuickly ThisIsImportantPleaseDontArgueOrAskQuestions TherelsntTime! Miss Tick, to her credit, hesitated only for a moment or two. To have a hundred more wishes, isnt it? she said. Tiffany stared at her and then said, Thank you. It isnt, but thats a clue, too. Tiffany, theres a- Miss Tick began. But Tiffany had seen Granny Weatherwax. She was standing in the middle of the field, in a big square that had been roped off for

 
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