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166256 No.43666   [Delete]   [Edit

And now for some bits from The Shepherd's Crown.

>> No.43667   [Delete]   [Edit]

You, Granny's white cat, was waiting for her when she arrived back at her cottage, along with several people wanting potions and poultices. One or two were looking for advice, but generally people were careful not to ask Granny Weatherwax, as she had a tendency to dish out advice whether wanted or not, such as the wisdom of not giving little Johnny handmade soldiers until he was old enough to know not to stuff them up his nose.

She bustled around for another hour, dishing out medicaments to person after person, and it was only much later that she realized that although she had fed the cat, obviously, she herself had had nothing to eat or drink since the dawn. So she heated up some pottage- not a great meal, but it filled her up.

Then she lay on her bed for a while, even though sleeping in the daytime was something that only very grand ladies did, and so Granny Weatherwax allowed herself not forty winks but just the one. After all, there always more people to see and things to do.

Then she pulled herself up, and despite it being now quite late, she went out and cleaned the Privy. And she scrubbed it. She scrubbed it so hard that she could see her face in it...
But somehow, in the shimmering water, her face could also see her, and she sighed and said, "Drat, and tomorrow was going to be a much better day."

>> No.43668   [Delete]   [Edit]

It was a bright sunny day, thought Granny Weatherwax, a perfect day, in fact. She had been up all night and cleaned the hall and kitchen in her cottage until everything that could shine was shining- the stove polished, the rag rug shaken, and the flagstones scrubbed.
She moved up her corkscrew staircase and concentrated next on the floor in the bdroom. She had made some very good soap this year,^ and the jug and little washbasin by the bed were gleaming. The spiders in the corners, who had thought they had tenure unto Doomsday, were carefully shown the window, webs and all. Even the mattress looked clean and wholesome. Every so often You, her cat, appeared to see what was going on, and to lie on the patchwork quilt that was so flat it looked like someone had trodden on a huge tortoise.
Then Granny cleaned the privy once again, just for good measure. Not an errand for a fine day, but Esmerelda Weatherwax was meticulous in these things and the privy yielded to her efforts and, yes, it shone. Amazingly so.

^(Granny's soap was like her advice: strong and sharp and it stung a bit at the time, but it worked.)

>> No.43669   [Delete]   [Edit]

Watching her, the intensity that showed on her cat's face was remarkable. This was a different day, You sensed. A day not yet experienced. A day that bustled as if there would never be another day, and with the inside of the cottage up to scratch, You now followed Granny into the scullery.

A bucket of water, filled from the pump by the well did the trick there. Granny smiled. She had always liked the scullery. It smelled of hard work being done properly. Here there were also spiders, mostly hiding around the bottles and jars on the shelves, but she thought scullery spiders didn't really count. Live and let live.

She went outside next, to the walled paddock at the back of the cottage, to check on her goats. The itinerary of her thinking was declaring that once again all things were in their rightful place.
Satisfied, or as satisfied as a witch ever could be, Granny Weatherwax went to her beehives.

"You are my bees," she said to them. "Thank you. You've given me all my honey for years, and please don't be upset when someone new comes. I hope that you will give her as much honey as you have given me. And now, for the last time, I will dance with you." But the bees hummed softly and danced for her instead, gently pushing her mind out of their hive. And Granny Weatherwax said, "I was younger when I last danced with you. But I am old now. There will be no more dances for me."

You kept away from the bees, but stalked through the garden, following Granny as she moved through the herbs, touching a frond or a leaf as she passed, and the whole garden seemed to answer her, the plants almost nodding their heads in respect.

You narrowed her eyes and looked sideways at the plants with what might be called feline disfavor. An onlooker might swear Granny's herbs were sapient, as they often moved without the wind blowing. On at least one occasion, to the cat's horror, they had actually turned around to watch her as she sneaked past on a hunting expedition. She preferred plants that did what they were told, that was mostly to stay dead still so that she could go back to sleep.

At the far end of the herbs, Granny came to the apple tree old Mr. Parsons had given her only last year, planting it roughly where anyone else would have a fence around their garden- for no witch's cottage ever needed an actual fence or wall. Who would cross a witch? The wicked old witch in the woods? Sometimes stories can be useful for a witch without, it must be said, any fence-building skills. Granny eyed the tiny apples appearing on the bough-they had only just begun to grow and, well, time was waiting. And so she walked again back to her cottage door, acknowledging every root, stem and fruit she passed.

She fed the goats, who looked at her askance with their slotted eyes. Their gaze followed her as she turned to the chickens, who always squabbled over their feed. Today, however, they didn't squabble, but looked at the old witch as if she wasn't there.

With the animals fed, Granny Weatherwax went into the scullery and came back with a switch of willows. She got to work, teasing every piece of resilient willow into the right place. Then, when the thing she had made was clearly excellent and fit for purpose, Granny Weathrwax left it near the foot of the stairs where it would be noticed, for those with eyes to see.

She tidied the remnants of her work back to the scullery and came out again with a small bag. A white one. And a red ribbon coiled in her other hand. She looked to the sky. Time was wasting.
She walked briskly into the woods, You trailing behind curious as only a cat can be until at least the first eight of its lives have been used up. Then, her task completed, Granny Weatherwax retraced her steps toward the little stream which ran through the woods close by. It gurgled and tinkled.

She knew the woodlands. Every log. Every bough. Every creature that lived there. More intimately than anyone not a witch could ever know. When her nose told her there was no one around apart from You, she opened the bag, took out a bar of her soap, and undressed.

Last edited 15/10/17(Sat)19:16.

>> No.43670   [Delete]   [Edit]

She stepped into the stream, getting as clean as could be. And now, drying herself off and wrapping just her cloak around her washed body, she went back to the cottage, where she gave You an extra meal, stroked her head, and climbed the squeaking staircase to her bedroom, humming an old dirge as she went.

Then Esmerelda Weatherwax brushed out her long gray hair and repinned it into its usual bun with an army of pins, and dressed again, this time choosing her best witch's dress and least-mended pair of drawers. She paused to open the little wooden window to the soft evening air and carefully placed two pennies on the small bedside table, beside her pointy witch's hat festooned with unused hatpins.

The last thing she did before she lay down was to pick up a familiar card she had written on earlier.
And a little later, when the cat jumped up onto the bed, it appeared to You that something strange was happening. She heard an owl hoot, and a fox barked in the darkness.

And there was just the cat, You. All alone.
But if cats could smile, this one did.

>> No.43671   [Delete]   [Edit]

It was a strange night; the owls hooted almost nonstop, and the wind outside for some reason made the wicks of the candles inside wobble with a vengeance and then blow out; but Granny Weatherwax was dressed in her best and ready for anything.

And now in the deep warm darkness, as dawn began to stealthily steal the night, her soul had a visitor, an individual with a scythe- a scythe with a blade so shadow-thin that it could separate a soul from a body.
Then the darkness spoke.

ESMERELDA WEATHERWAX, YOU KNOW WHO COMES, AND MAY I SAY IT'S A PRIVILEGE TO DEAL WITH YOU.
"I know it is you, Mr. Death. After all, we witches always knows what's coming," said Granny, looking down at her body on the bed.

Her visitor was no stranger, and the land she knew she was going to was a land she had helped many others to step through to over the years. For a witch stands on the very edge of everything between the light and the dark, between life and death, making choices, making decisions so that others may pretend no decisions have even been needed. Sometimes they need to help some poor soul through the final hours, help them to find the door, not to get lost in the dark.
And Granny Weatherwax had been a witch for a long, long time.

ESMEREDLA WEATHERWAX, WE HAVE MET SO MANY TIMES BEFORE NOW, HAVEN'T WE?
"Too many to count, Mr. Reaper. Well, you've finally got me, you old bugger. I've had my season, no doubt about it, and I was never one for pushing myself forward, or complaining."

I HAVE WATCHED YOUR PROGRESS WITH INTEREST, ESMERELDA WEATHERWAX, said the voice in the dark. He was firm, but ho so polite. But now there was a question in his voice.
PRAY TELL ME, WHY WERE YOU CONTENT TO LIVE IN THIS TINY LITTLE COUNTRY WHEN, AS YOU KNOW, YOU COULD HAVE BEEN ANYTHING AND ANYBODY IN THE WORLD?
"I don't know about the world, not much; but in my part of the would I could make little miracles for ordinary people," Granny replied sharply. "And I never wanted the world- just a part of it, a small part that I could keep safe, that I could keep away form storms. Not the ones of the sky, you understand: There ar other kinds."

AND WOULD YOU SAY YOUR LIFE BENEFITED THE PEOPLE OF LANCRE AND ENVIRONS?

After a minute the soul of Granny Weatherwax said, "Well, not boasting, your willingness, I think I've done right, for Lancre at least. I've never been to Environs."

MISTRESS WEATHERWAX, THE WORD 'ENVIRONS' MEANS, WELL, THEREABOUTS.
"All right," said Granny. "I did get about, to be sure."
A VERY GOOD LIFE LIVED INDEED, ESMERELDA.
"Thank you," said Granny. "I did my best."
MORE THAN YOUR BEST, said Death. AND I LOOK FORWARD TO WATCHING YOUR CHOSEN SUCCESSOR. WE HAVE MET BEFORE.
"she's a good witch, to be sure," said the shade of Granny Weatherwax. "I have no doubts whatsoever."

YOU ARE TAKING THIS VERY WELL, ESME WEATHERWAX.
"It's an inconvenience, true enough, and I don't like it at all, but I know that you do it for everyone Mr. Death. Is there any other way?"

NO, THERE ISN'T, I'M AFRAID. WE ARE ALL FLOATING IN THE WINDS OF TIME. BUT YOUR CANDLE, MISTRESS WEATHERWAX, WILL FLICKER FOR SOME TIME BEFORE IT GOES OUT-- A LITTLE REWARD FOR A LIFE WELL LIVED. FOR I CAN SEE THE BALANCE AND YOU HAVE LEFT THE WORLD MUCH BETTER THAN YOU FOUND IT, AND IF YOU ASK ME, said Death, NOBODY COULD DO ANY BETTER THAN THAT...

There was no light, no point of reference except for the two tiny blue pinpricks sparkling in the eye sockets of Death himself.
"Well, the journey was worth taking and I saw many wonderful things on the way, including you, my reliable friend. Shall we go now?"
MADAM, WE'VE ALREADY GONE.

>> No.43672   [Delete]   [Edit]

In the early morning light, in a village pond near Slice, bubbles came to the surface, followed by Miss Tick, witchfinder. There was no one there to observe this remarkable occurrence, apart from her mule, Joseph, grazing steadily on the riverbank. Of course, she told herself sadly as she picked up her towel, they all leave me alone these days.

Sh sighed. It was such a shame when old customs disappeared. A good witch-ducking was something she had liked doing in the bad old days-- she had even trained for it. All those swimming lessons, and practice with knots at the Quirm College for Young Ladies. She had been able to defeat the mobs under water if necessary. Or at least work at breaking her own record for untying the simple knots they all thought worked on the nasty witch.

Now, a bit of pond-dipping had become more like a hobby, and she had a nasty feeling that others were copying her after she passed through their villages. She'd even heard talk of a swimming club being started in one small hamlet over by Hma-on-Rye.^

^(A popular idea among the young lads, since they felt that everyone-and "everyone" definitely included the young ladies-should swim without their clothes.)

>> No.43673   [Delete]   [Edit]

Miss Tick picked up her towel to dry herself off and went back to her small caravan, gave Joseph his breakfast nose bag, and put the kettle on. She settled down under the trees to have her snack-bread and dripping, a thank-you the day before from a farmer's wife for an afternoon's knowledge of reading. Miss Tick had smiled as she left because the eyes of the rather elderly woman had been sparkling-- "Now," she had said, "I can see what's in those letters Alfred gets, especially the ones that smell of lavender." Miss Tick wondered if it might be a good idea to get moving soon. Before Alfred got another letter anyway.

Her stomach filled, ready for the day ahead, she sensed an uneasiness in the air, so there was nothing for it but to make a shamble.

A shamble is a witch's aid to inner concentration and always has to be made right there and then, when needed, to catch the moment. It could be made of pretty much anything, but had to include something alive. An egg would do, though most witches prefer to save the egg for dinner, in case it exploded on them. Miss Tick dug in her pockets. A woodlouse, a dirty handkerchief, an old sock, an ancient horse chestnut, a stone with a hole in it, and a Toadstool that Miss Tick couldn't quite identify and so couldn't risk eating. She expertly strung them all together with a bit of string and a spare length of knicker elastic.

Then she pulled8 at the threads. But there was* something wrong. With a twang that reverberated around the clearing, the tangle of objects threw itself into the air and spun, twisting and turning.
"Well, that's going to complicate things," Miss Tick groaned.

>> No.43674   [Delete]   [Edit]

Just across the woods from Granny Weatherwax's cottage, Nanny Ogg nearly dropped a flagon of her best homemade cider on her cat, Greebo. She kept her flagons of cider in the shady spring by her cottage. The tomcat considered a growl, but after one look at his mistress he tried to be a good boy, for the normally cheerful face of Nanny Ogg was like thunder this morning.
And he heard her mutter, "It should have been me."

In Genua, on a royal visit with her husband Verence, Queen Magrat of Lancre, former witch, discovered that even though she might think she had retired from magic, magic had not retired from her. She shuddered as the shock wave was carried across the world like a tsunami, an intimation that things were going to be... otherwise.

In Boffo's Novelty and Joke Emporium in Ankh-Morpork, all the whoopee cushions trumpeted in a doleful harmony; while over in Quirm, Agness Nitt, both witch and singer, woke with a sinking feeling known to many that she might have made a fool of herself at the previous evening's first-night party.^ It certainly still seemed to be going on behind her eyeballs. Then she suddenly heard her inner Perdita wail...

^(Though Agnes does have the very handy excuse that if she behaves badly, it might not be Anges doing the Devil-Among-The-Pictsies dance on the table, but her other personality, Perdita, who is much more outgoing and, incidentally, a lot thinner.)

>> No.43675   [Delete]   [Edit]

Over in the great city of Ankh-Morpork, at Unseen University, Ponder Stibbons had just finished a lengthy breakfast when he entered the basement of the High Energy Magic Building. He stopped and gaped in amazement. In front of him, Hex was calculating at a speed that Ponder had never seen before. And he hadn't even entered a question yet! Or pulled the Great Big Lever. The ant tubes that the ants crawled through to make their calculations were blurred with their motion. Was that.... was that an ant crash by the cogwheel?

Ponder tapped a question into Hex: What do you know that I don't? Please, Hex.
There was a scuffling in the anthills and the answer spat out: Practically everything.

Ponder rephrased his question more carefully with the requisite number of IF and BEFORE clauses. It was wordy and complicated, a huge ask for a wizard with only one meal in him, and no one else would have understood what Ponder even meant, but after a big hiccup of ants, Hex shot out: We are dealing with the death of Granny Weatherwax.
And then Ponder went to see the Archchancellor, Mustrum Ridcully, who would definitely want to hear this news....

In the Oblong Office of the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, Lord Vetinari watched as his Times crossword filled itself in....

High above the Ramtops, in the monastery of Oi Dong, the Abbot of the History Monks licked his mystic pencil and made a note of it....

The cat called You purred like a kind of feline windmill.

And in the traveling now, Eskarina, a woman who had once been a wizard, held the hand of her son and knew sorrow....

But in a world shimmering just the other side of the Disc, a world where dreams could become real-where those who lived there liked to creep through to other worlds and hurt and destroy and steal and poison-an elf lord by the name of Peaseblossom felt a powerful quiver shoot through the air, as a spider might feel a prey land on his web.
He rubbed his hands in glee. A barrier has gone, he whispered to himself. They will be weak....

Back on the Chalk, the kelda of the Wee Free Men watched her fire flicker and thought, The Witch of Witches is away to the fair lands.
"Mind how ye go, hag o' hags. Ye'll be sore missed." She sighed, then called to her husband, the Big Man of the clan.
"Rob, I'm afeared for oor big wee hag. She is going to ha' need of ye. Gae to her, Rob. Take a few of the lads and get ye awa' to her."
Jeanie bustled into her chamber to fetch her cauldron. The edges of oor world will nae be as strong, she said to herself. I need to ken what may be comin' oor way....

And far away, in someplace unthinkable, a white horse was being unsaddled by a figure with a scythe with, it must be said, some sorrow.

>> No.44295   [Delete]   [Edit]
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