A hat full of sky, p.4
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       A Hat Full of Sky, p.4

         Part #32 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Page 4


  It certainly is, Mr Anybody.

  An no thin bads happenin at a, Rob noted. He looked closer. How can you tell its my name?

  Ah, thatll be the readin side o things, said Jeannie. Thats where the lettery things make a sound in yer heid? said Rob. Thats the bunny, said the toad. But we thought youd like to start with the more physical aspect of the procedure.

  Could I no mebbe just learn the writin and leave the readin to someone else? Rob asked, without much hope. No, my mans got to do both, said Jeannie, folding her arms. When a female Feegle does that, theres no hope left. Ach, its a terrible thing for a man when his wumman gangs up on him wi a toad, said Rob, shaking his head. But, when he turned to look at the grubby paper, there was just a hint of pride in his face. Still, thats my name, right? he said, grinning. Jeannie nodded. Just there, all by itself and no on a Wanted poster or anything. My name, drawn by me.

  Yes, Rob, said the kelda. My name, under my thumb. No scunner can do anythin aboot it? Ive got my name, nice and safe? Jeannie looked at the toad, who shrugged. It was generally held by those who knew them that most of the brains in the Nac Mac Feegle clans ended up in the women. A mans a man o some standin when hes got his own name where no one can touch it, said Rob Anybody. Thats serious magic, that is-

  The R is the wrong way roond and you left the A and a Y out of “Anybody”, said Jeannie, because it is a wifes job to stop her husband actually exploding with pride. Ach, wumman, I didna ken which way the fat man wuz walking, said Rob, airily waving a hand. Ye canna trust the fat man. Thats the kind of thing us natral writin folk knows about. One day he might walk this way, next day he might walk that

  way. He beamed at his name: ROB NybO D And I reckon you got it wrong wi them Ys, he went on. I reckon it should be N E Bo D. Thats Enn . . . eee . . . bor . . . dee, see? Thats senseY He stuck the pencil into his hair, and gave her a defiant look. Jeannie sighed. Shed grown up with seven hundred brothers and knew how they thought, which was often quite fast while being totally in the wrong direction. And if they couldnt bend their thinking around the world, they bent the world around their thinking. Usually, her mother had told her, it was best not to argue. Actually, only half a dozen Feegles in the Long Lake clan could read and write very well. They were considered odd, strange hobbies. After all, what -when you got out of bed in the morning - were they good for? You didnt need to know them to wrestle a trout or mug a rabbit or get drunk. The wind couldnt be read and you couldnt write on water. But things written down lasted. They were the voices of Feegles whod died long ago, whod seen strange things, whod made strange discoveries. Whether you approved of that depended on how creepy you thought it was. The Long Lake clan approved. Jeannie wanted the best for her new clan, too. It wasnt easy, being a young kelda. You came to a new clan, with only a few of your brothers as a bodyguard, where you married a husband and ended up with hundreds of brothers-in- law. It could be troubling if you let your mind dwell on it. At least back on the island in the Long Lake shed had her mother to talk to, but a kelda never went home again. Except for her bodyguard brothers, a kelda was all alone. Jeannie was homesick and lonely and frightened of the future, which is why she was about to get things wrong . . . Rob! Hamish and Big Yan came tumbling through the fake rabbit hole that was the entrance to the mound. Rob Anybody glared at them. We wuz engaged in a littry enterprise, he said. Yes, Rob, but we watched the big wee young hag safe awa, like you said, but theres a hiver after her! Hamish blurted out. Are ye sure? said Rob, dropping his pencil. I never heard o one of them in this world!

  Oh, aye, said Big Yan. Its buzzin fair made my teeths ache!

  So did you no tell her, ye daftie? said Rob. Theres that other hag wi her, Rob, said Big Yan. The educatin hag.

  Miss Tick? said the toad. Aye, the one wi a face like a yard o yoghurt, said Big Yan. An you said we wuzna to show ourselves, Rob.

  Aye, weel, this is different- Rob Anybody began, but stopped. He hadnt been a husband for very long, but upon marriage men get a whole lot of

  extra senses bolted into their brain, and one is there to tell a man that hes suddenly neck deep in real trouble. Jeannie was tapping her foot. Her arms were still folded. She had the special smile women learn about when they marry, too, which seems to say Yes, youre in big trouble but Im going to let you dig yourself in even more deeply.

  Whats this about the big wee hag? she said, her voice as small and meek as a mouse trained at the Rodent College of Assassins. Oh, ah, ach, weel, aye . . . Rob began, his face falling. Do ye not bring her to mind, dear? She was at oor wedding, aye. She was oor kelda for a day or two, ye ken. The Old One made her swear to that just afore she went back to the Land o the Livin, he added, in case mentioning the wishes of the last kelda would deflect whatever storm was coming. Its as well tae keep an eye on her, ye ken, her being oor hag and a . . . Rob Anybodys voice trailed away in the face of Jeannies look. A true kelda has tae marry the Big Man, said Jeannie. Just like I married ye, Rob Anybody Feegle, and am I no a good wife tae ye?

  Oh, fine, fine, Rob burbled. But-

  And ye cannae be married to two wives, because that would be bigamy, would it not? said Jeannie, her voice dangerously sweet. Ach, it wasnae that big, said Rob Anybody, desperately looking around for a way of escape. And it wuz only tempry, an shes but a lass, an she wuz good at thinkin-

  Im good at thinking, Rob Anybody, and I am the kelda o this clan, am I no? There can only be one, is that not so? And I am thinking that there will be no more chasin after this big wee girl. Shame on ye, anyway. Shell no want the like o Big Yan a- gawpin at her all the time, Im sure. Rob Anybody hung his head. Aye . . . but. . . , he said. But what?

  A hivers chasin the puir wee lass. There was a long pause before Jeannie said, Are ye sure?

  Aye, Kelda, said Big Yan. Once you hear that buzzin ye never forget it. Jeannie bit her lip. Then, looking a little pale, she said, Ye said shes got the makins o a powerful hag, Rob?

  Aye, but nae one in histry has survived a hiver! Ye cannae kill it, ye cannae stop it, ye cannae-

  But wuz ye no tellin me how the big wee girl even fought the Quin and won? said Jeannie. "Wanged her wi a skillet, ye said. That means shes good, aye? If she is a true hag, shell find a way hersel. We all ha to dree our weird. Whatevers out there, shes got to face it. If she cannae, shes no true hag.

  Aye, but a hivers worse than- Rob began. Shes off to learn hagglin from other hags, said Jeannie. An I must learn keldarin all by myself. Ye must hope she learns as fast as me, Rob Anybody. Chapter 2 Twoshirts and Two Noses

  Twoshirts was just a bend in the road, with a name. There was nothing there but an inn for the coaches, a blacksmiths shop, and a small store with the word SOUVENIRS written optimistically on a scrap of cardboard in the window. And that was it. Around the place, separated by fields and scraps of woodland, were the houses of people for whom Twoshirts was, presumably, the big city. Every world is full of places like Twoshirts. They are places for people to come from, not go to. It sat and baked silently in the hot afternoon sunlight. Right in the middle of the road an elderly spaniel, mottled brown and white, dozed in the dust. Twoshirts was bigger than the village back home and Tiffany had never seen souvenirs before. She went into the store and spent half a penny on a small wood carving of two shirts on a washing line, and two postcards entitled View of Twoshirts which showed the souvenir shop and what was quite probably the same dog sleeping in the road. The little old lady behind the counter called her young lady and said that Twoshirts was very popular later in the year, when people came from up to a mile around for the Cabbage-Macerating Festival. When Tiffany came out she found Miss Tick standing next to the sleeping dog, frowning back the way theyd come. Is there something the matter? said Tiffany. What? said Miss Tick, as if shed forgotten that Tiffany existed. Oh . . . no. I just. . . I thought I. . . look, shall we go and have something to eat? It took a while to find someone in the inn, but Miss Tick wandered into the kitchens and found a woman who pr
omised them some scones and a cup of tea. She was actually quite surprised shed promised that, since she hadnt intended to, it strictly speaking being her afternoon free until the coach came, but Miss Tick had a way of asking questions that got the answers she wanted. Miss Tick also asked for a fresh egg, not cooked, in its shell. Witches were also good at asking questions that werent followed by the other person saying Why? They sat and ate in the sun, on the bench outside the inn. Then Tiffany took out her diary. She had one in the dairy too, but that was for cheese and butter records. This one was personal. Shed bought it off a pedlar, cheap, because it was last years. But, as he said, it had the same number of days. It also had a lock, a little brass thing on a leather flap. It had its own tiny key. It was the lock that had attracted Tiffany. At a certain age, you see the point of locks. She wrote down Twoshirts, and spent some time thinking before adding y a bend in the road. Miss Tick kept staring at the road. Is there something wrong, Miss Tick? Tiffany asked again, looking up. Im . . . not sure. Is anyone watching us? Tiffany looked around. Twoshirts slept in the heat. There was no one watching. No, Miss Tick. The teacher removed her hat and took from inside it a couple of pieces of wood and a reel of black thread. She rolled up her sleeves, looking around quickly in case

  Twoshirts had sprouted a population, then broke off a length of the thread and picked up the egg. Egg, thread and fingers blurred for a few seconds and there was the egg, hanging from Miss Ticks fingers in a neat little black net. Tiffany was impressed. But Miss Tick hadnt finished. She began to draw things from her pockets, and a witch generally has a lot of pockets. There were some beads, a couple of feathers, a glass lens and one or two strips of coloured paper. These all got threaded into the tangle of wood and cotton. What is that? said Tiffany. Its a shamble, said Miss Tick, concentrating. Is it magic?

  Not exactly. Its trickery. Miss Tick lifted her left hand. Feathers and beads and egg and pocket junk spun in the web of threads. Hmm, she said. Now let me see what I can see . . . She pushed the fingers of her right hand into the spiderwork of threads and pulled . . . Egg and glass and beads and feathers danced through the tangle, and Tiffany was sure that at one point one thread had passed straight through another. Oh, she said. Its like Cats Cradle!

  Youve played that, have you? said Miss Tick vaguely, still concentrating. I can do all the common shapes, said Tiffany. The Jewels and The Cradle and The House and The Flock and The Three Old Ladies, One With A Squint, Carrying The Bucket Of Fish To Market When They Meet The Donkey . . . although you need two people for that one, and I only ever did it once, and Betsy Tupper scratched her nose at the wrong moment and I had to get some scissors to cut her loose Miss Ticks fingers worked like a loom. Funny it should be a childrens toy now, she said. Aha . . . She stared into the complex web she had created. Can you see anything? said Tiffany. If I may be allowed to concentrate, child? Thank you . . . Out in the road the sleeping dog woke, yawned and pulled itself to its feet. It ambled over to the bench the two of them were sitting on, gave Tiffany a reproachful look and then curled up by her feet. It smelled of old damp carpets. Theres . . . something . . . said Miss Tick, very quietly. Panic gripped Tiffany. Sunlight reflected off the white dust of the road and the stone wall opposite. Bees hummed between the little yellow flowers that grew on top of the wall. By Tiffanys feet, the spaniel snorted and farted occasionally. But it was all wrong. She could feel the pressure bearing down on her, pushing at her, pushing at the landscape, squeezing it under the bright light of day. Miss Tick and her cradle of threads were motionless beside her, frozen in the moment of bright horror. Only the threads moved, by themselves. The egg danced, the glass glinted, the beads

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