A hat full of sky, p.9
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       A Hat Full of Sky, p.9
 

         Part #32 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Page 9

 

  But here is a book, faintly transparent and glowing with thaumic radiation, under a glass dome. Young wizards about to engage in research are encouraged to go and read it. The title is Hivers: A Dissertation Upon a Device of Amazing Cunning by Sensibility Bustle, D. M. Phil. , B. El L. , Patricius Professor of Magic. Most of the hand-written book is about how to construct a large and powerful magical apparatus to capture a hiver without harm to the user, but on the very last page Dr Bustle writes, or wrote: According to the ancient and famous volume JR. es Centum et Una Quas Magus Facere Totest [*One Hundred and One Things a Wizard Can Do] hivers are a type of demon (indeed, Professor Poledread classifies them as such in J Spy Demons, and Cuvee gives them a section under wandering spirits in LIBER IMMANIS MONSTRORUM [The Monster Book of Monsters]. However, ancient texts discovered in the Cave of Jars by the ill-fated First Expedition to the Loko Region give quite a different story, which bears out my own not inconsider- able research. Hivers were formed in the first seconds of Creation. They are not alive but they have, as it were, the shape of life. They have no body, brain or thoughts of their own and a naked hiver is a sluggish thing indeed, tumbling gently through the endless night between the worlds. According to Poledread, most end up at the bottom of deep seas, or in the bellies of volcanoes, or drifting through the hearts of stars. Poledread was a very inferior thinker compared to myself, but in this case he is right. Yet a hiver does have the ability to fear and to crave. We cannot guess what frightens a hiver, but they seem to take refuge in bodies that have power of some sort - great strength, great intellect, great prowess with magic. In this sense they are like the common hermit elephant of Howondaland, Elephantus SoUtarms, that will always seek the strongest mud hut as its shell. There is no doubt in my mind that hivers have advanced the cause of life. Why did fish crawl out of the sea? Why did humanity grasp such a dangerous thing as fire? Hivers, I believe, have been behind this, firing outstanding creatures of various species with the flame of necessary ambition which drove them onwards and upwards! What is it that a hiver seeks? What is it that drives them forward? What is it they want? This I shall find out! Oh, lesser wizards warn us that a hiver distorts the mind of its host, curdling it and inevitably causing an early death through brain fever. I say, Poppycock! People have always been afraid of what they do not understand! But I have understanding. This morning, at two oclock, I captured a hiver with my device! And now it is locked inside my head. I can sense its memories, the memories of every creature it has inhabited. Yet, because of my superior intellect, I control the hiver. It does not control me. I do not feel that it has changed me in any way. My mind is as extraordinarily powerful as it always has been!!

  At this point the writing is smudgy, apparently because Bustle was beginning to dribble. Oh, how they have held me back over the years, those worms and cravens that have through sheer luck been allowed to call themselves my superiors! They laughed at me! BUT THEY ARE NOT LAUGHING NOW!!! Even those who called themselves my friends, OH YES, they did nothing but hinder me. What about the warnings? they said. Why did the jar you found the plans in have the words Do Not Open in Any Circumstances! engraved in fifteen ancient languages on the lid? they said. Cowards! So- called chums! Creatures inhabited by a hiver become paranoid and insane, they said! Hivers cannot be controlled, they squeaked!! DO ANY OF US BELIEVE THIS FOR ONE MINUTE??? Oh, what glories AWAIT!!! Now I have cleansed my life of such worthlessness!!! And as for those even now having the DISRESPECT YES DISRESPECT to hammer on my door because of what I did to the so-called Archchancellor and the College Council . . . HOW DARE THEY JUDGE ME!!!!! Like all insects they have NO CONCEPT OF GREATNESS!!!!! I WILL SHOW THEM!!!!! But . . . I insoleps. . . blit!!!!! hammeringggg dfgujf blort. . . . . . And there the writing ends. On a little card beside the book some wizard of former times has written: All that could be found of Professor Bustle was buried in a jar in the old Rose Garden. We advise all research students to spend some time there, and reflect upon the manner of his death. The moon was on the way to being full. A gibbous moon, its called. Its one of the duller phases of the moon and seldom gets illustrated. The full moon and the crescent moon get all the publicity. Rob Anybody sat alone on the mound, just outside the fake rabbit hole, staring at the distant mountains where the snow on the peaks gleamed in the moonlight. A hand touched him lightly on the shoulder.

  Tis not like ye to let someone creep up on ye, Rob Anybody/ said Jeannie, sitting down beside him. Rob Anybody sighed. Daft Wullie was telling me ye havenae been eatin your meals, said Jeannie, carefully. Rob Anybody sighed. And Big Yan said when ye wuz out huntin today ye let a fox go past wiout gieing it a good kickin? Rob sighed again. There was a faint pop followed by a glugging noise. Jeannie held out a tiny wooden cup. In her other hand was a small leather bottle. Fumes from the cup wavered in the air.

  This is the last o the Special Sheep Liniment your big wee hag gave us at our wedding, said Jeannie. 1 put it safely by for emergencies.

  Shes no my big wee hag, Jeannie, said Rob, without looking at the cup. Shes oor big wee hag. An Ill tell ye, Jeannie, she has it in her tae be the hag o hags. Theres power in her she doesnae dream of. But the hiver smells it.

  Aye, well, a drinks a drink whomsoever ye call her, said Jeannie, soothingly. She waved the cup under Robs nose. He sighed, and looked away. Jeannie stood up quickly. Wullie! Big Yan! Come quick! she yelled. He willnae tak a drink! I think hes deidY Ach, this is no the time for strong licker, said Rob Anybody. My heart is heavy, wumman.

  Quickly now! Jeannie shouted down the hole . . . Hes deid and still talkin!

  Shes the hag o these hills, said Rob, ignoring her. Just like her granny. She tells the hills what they are, every day. She has them in her bones. She holds em in her heart. Wiout her, I dinnae like tae think o the future. The other Feegles had come scurrying out of the hole and were looking uncertainly at Jeannie. Is somethin wrong? said Daft Wullie. Aye! snapped the kelda. Rob willnae tak a drink o Special Sheep Liniment! Wullies little face screwed up in instant grief. Ach, the Big Mans deidY he sobbed. Oh waily waily waily-

  Will ye hush yer gob, ye big mudlin! shouted Rob Anybody, standing up. I am no deid! Im trying to have a moment o existential dreed here, right? Crivens, its a puir lookout if a man cannae feel the chilly winds o Fate lashing aroound his nethers wiout folks telling him hes deid, eh?

  Ach, and I see yeve been talking to the toad again, Rob, said Big Yan. Hes the only one arroond here that used them lang words that tak all day to walk the length of . . . He turned to Jeannie. Its a bad case o the thinkin hes caught, missus. When a man starts messin wi the readin and the writin then hell come doon with a dose o the thinkin soon enough. Ill fetch some o the lads and well hold his heid under water until he stops doin it, tis the only cure. It can kill a man, the thinkin. Ill wallop ye and ten like ye! yelled Rob Anybody in Big Yans face, raising his fists. Im the Big Man in this clan and-

  And I am the Kelda, said their kelda, and one of the hiddlins of keldaring is to use your voice like that: hard, cold, sharp, cutting the air like a dagger of ice. And I tell you men to go back doon the hole and dinnae show you faces back up here until I say. Not you, Rob Anybody Feegle! You stay here until I tell ye!

  Oh waily waily- Daft Wullie began, but Big Yan clapped a hand over his mouth and dragged him away quickly. When they were alone, and scraps of cloud were beginning to mass around the moon, Rob Anybody hung his head. I willnae go, Jeannie, if you say, he said. Ach, Rob, Rob, said Jeannie, beginning to cry. Ye dinnae understand. I want no

  harm to come to the big wee girl, truly I dont. But I cannae face thinkin o you out there fightin this monster that cannae be killed! Its you Im worried aboot, can ye no seel Rob put his arm around her. Aye, I see, he said. Im your wife, Rob, askin ye not to go!

  Aye, aye. Ill stay, said Rob. Jeannie looked up to him. Tears shone in the moonlight. Ye mean it?

  I never braked my word yet, said Rob. Except to polismen and other o that kidney, ye ken, a
nd they dinnae count.

  Yell stay? Yell abide by my word? said Jeannie, sniffing. Rob sighed. Aye. I will. Jeannie was quiet for a while, and then said, in the sharp cold voice of a kelda: Rob Anybody Feegle, Im tellin ye now to go and save the big wee hag.

  Whut? said Rob Anybody, amazed. Jus noo ye said I was tae stay-

  That was as your wife, Rob. Now Im telling you as your kelda. Jeannie stood up, chin out and looking determined. If ye dinnae heed the word o yer kelda, Rob Anybody Feegle, ye can be banished fra the clan. Ye ken that. So youll listen t me guid. Tak what men you need afore its too late, and go to the mountains, and see that the big wee girl comes tae nae harm. And come back safe yoursel. That is an order! Nay, tis moren an order. Tis a geas Im laying on ye! That cannae be brake!

  But I- Rob began, completely bewildered. Im the kelda, Rob, said Jeannie. I cannae run a clan with the Big Man pinin. And the hills of our children need their hag. Everyone knows the land needs someone tae tell it whut it is. There was something about the way Jeannie had said children. Rob Anybody was not the fastest of thinkers, but he always got there in the end. Aye, Rob, said Jeannie, seeing his expression. Soon Ill be birthing seven sons.

  Oh, said Rob Anybody. He didnt ask how she knew the number. Keldas just knew. Thats greatV he said. And one daughter, Rob. Rob blinked. A daughter? This soon?

  Aye, said Jeannie. Thats wonderful good luck for a clan! said Rob. Aye. So youve got something to come back safe to me for, Rob Anybody. An I beg ye to use your heid for somethin other than nuttin folk.

  I thank ye, Kelda, said Rob Anybody. Ill do as ye bid. Ill tak some lads and find the big wee hag, for the good o the hills. It cannae be a good life for the puir wee big wee thing, all alone and far fra home, among strangers.

  Aye, said Jeannie, turning her face away. I ken that, too. Chapter 4 PLAN

  At dawn Rob Anybody, watched with awe by his many brothers, wrote the word: PLN . . . on a scrap of paper bag. Then he held it up. Plan, ye ken, he said to the assembled Feegles. Now we have a Plan, all we got tae do is work out what tae do. Yes, Wullie?

  Whut was that about this geese Jeannie hit ye with? said Daft Wullie, lowering his hand. Not geese, geas, said Rob Anybody. He sighed. I told yez. That means its serious. It means I got tae bring back the big wee hag, an no excuses, otherwise my soul gaes slam-bang intae the big cludgie in the sky. Its like a magical order. Tis a heavy thing, tae be under a geas.

  Well, theyre big birds, said Daft Wullie. Wullie, said Rob, patiently, ye ken I said I would tell ye when there wuz times you shouldve kept your big gob shut?

  Aye, Rob.

  Weel, that wuz one o them times. He raised his voice. Now, lads, ye ken all aboot hivers. They cannae be killed! But tis oor duty to save the big wee hag, so this is, like, a sooey-side mission and yell probably all end up back in the land o the living doin a borin wee job. So . . . Im askin for volunteers! Every Feegle over the age of four automatically put his hand up. Oh, come on, said Rob. You cannae all come! Look, Ill tak . . . Daft Wullie, Big Yan and . . . you, Awfly Wee Billy Bigchin. An Im takin no weans, so if yez under three inches high yere not comin! Except for ye, ocourse, Awfly Wee Billy. As for the rest of youse, well settle this the traditional Feegle way. Ill tak the last fifty men still standing! He beckoned the chosen three to a place in the corner of the mound while the rest of the crowd squared up cheerfully. A Feegle liked to face enormous odds all by himself, because it meant you didnt have to look where you were hitting. Shes moren a hundret miles awa, said Rob as the big fight started. We cannae run it, tis too far. Any of youse scunners got any ideas?

 
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