Carpe Jugulum Chapter 2

What a place! What a dump. He'd had a short walk after the service and every path seemed to end in a cliff or a sheer drop. Never had he seen such a vertical country. Things had rustled at him in the bushes, and he'd got his shoes muddy. As for the people he'd met... well, simple ignorant country folk, salt of the earth, obviously, but they'd just stared at him carefully from a distance, as if they were waiting for something to happen to him and didn't care to be too close to him when it did.

But still, he mused, it did say in Brutha's Letter to the Simonites that if you wished the light to be seen you had to take it into dark places. And this was certainly a dark place.

He said a small prayer and stepped out into the muddy, windy darkness.

Granny flew high above the roaring treetops, under a half moon.-

She distrusted a moon like that. A full moon could only wane, a new moon could only wax, but a half moon, balancing so precariously between light and dark... well, it could do anything.

Witches always lived on the edges of things. She felt the tingle in her hands. It was not just from the frosty air. There was an edge somewhere. Something was beginning.

On the other side of the sky the Hublights were burning around the mountains at the centre of the world, bright enough even to fight the pale light of the moon. Green and gold flames danced in the air over the central mountains. It was rare to see them at this time of the year, and Granny wondered what that might signify.

Slice was perched along the sides of a cleft in the mountains that couldn't be dignified by the name of valley. In the moonlight she saw the pale upturned face waiting in the shadows of the garden as she came in to land.

'Evening, Mr Ivy,' she said, leaping off. 'Upstairs, is she?'

'In the barn,' said Ivy flatly. 'The cow kicked her... hard.'

Granny's expression stayed impassive.

'We shall see,' she said, 'what may be done.'

In the barn, one look at Mrs Patternoster's face told her how little that might now be. The woman wasn't a witch, but she knew all the practical midwifery that can be picked up in an isolated village, be it from cows, goats, horses or humans.

'It's bad,' she whispered, as Granny looked at the moaning figure on the straw. 'I reckon we'll lose both of them... or maybe just one...'

There was, if you were listening for it, just the suggestion of a question in that sentence. Granny focused her mind.

'It's a boy,' she said.

Mrs Patternoster didn't bother to wonder how Granny knew, but her expression indicated that a little more weight had been added to a burden.

'I'd better go and put it to John Ivy, then,' she said.

She'd barely moved before Granny Weatherwax's hand locked on her arm.

'He's no part in this,' she said.

'But after all, he is the-'

'He's no part in this.'

Mrs Pattemoster looked into the blue stare and knew two things. One was that Mr Ivy had no part in this, and the other was that anything that happened in this barn was never, ever, going to be mentioned again.

'I think I can bring 'em to mind,' said Granny, letting go and rolling up her sleeves. 'Pleasant couple, as I recall. He's a good husband, by all accounts.' She poured warm water from its jug into the bowl that the midwife had set up on a manger.

Mrs Patternoster nodded.

'Of course, it's difficult for a man working these steep lands alone,' Granny went on, washing her hands. Mrs Pattemoster nodded again, mournfully.

'Well, I reckon you should take him into the cottage, Mrs Patternoster, and make him a cup of tea,' Granny commanded. 'You can tell him I'm doing all I can.'

This time the midwife nodded gratefully.

When she had fled, Granny laid a hand on Mrs Ivy's damp forehead.

'Well now, Florence Ivy,' she said, 'let us see what might be done. But first of all... no pain...'

As she moved her head she caught sight of the moon through the unglazed window. Between the light and the dark... well, sometimes that's where you had to be.


Granny didn't bother to turn round.

'I thought you'd be here,' she said, as she knelt down in the straw.

WHERE ELSE? Said Death.

'Do you know who you're here for?'


Granny felt the words in her head for several seconds, like little melting cubes of ice. On the very, very edge, then, there had to be... judgement.

'There's too much damage here,' she said, at last. 'Too much.'

A few minutes later she felt the life stream past her. Death had the decency to leave without a word.

When Mrs Patternoster tremulously knocked on the door and pushed it open, Granny was in the cow's stall. The midwife saw her stand up, holding a piece of thorn.

'Been in the beast's leg all day,' she said. 'No wonder it was fretful. Try and make sure he doesn't kill the cow, you understand? They'll need it.'

Mrs Patternoster glanced down at the rolled-up blanket in the straw. Granny had tactfully placed it out of sight of Mrs Ivy, who was sleeping now.

'I'll tell him,' said Granny, brushing off her dress. 'As for her, well, she's strong and young and you know what to do. You keep an eye on her, and me or Nanny Ogg will drop in when we can. If she's up to it, they may need a wet nurse up at the castle, and that may be good for everyone.'

It was doubtful that anyone in Slice would defy Granny Weatherwax, but Granny saw the faintest grey shadow of disapproval in the midwife's expression.

'You still reckon I should've asked Mr Ivy?' she said.

'That's what I would have done...'the woman mumbled.

'You don't like him? You think he's a bad man?' said Granny, adjusting her hatpins.


'Then what's he ever done to me, that I should hurt him so?'

Agnes had to run to keep up. Nanny Ogg, when roused, could move as though powered by pistons.

'But we get a lot of priests up here, Nanny!'

'Not like the Omnians!' snapped Nanny. 'We had 'em up here last year. A couple of 'em knocked at my door!'

'Well, that is what a door is f-'

'And they shoved a leaflet under it saying "Repent!"' Nanny Ogg went on. 'Repent? Me? Cheekl I can't start repenting at my time of life. I'd never get any work done. Anyway,' she added, 'I ain't sorry for most of it.'

'You're getting a bit excited, I think-'

'They set fire to people!' said Nanny.

'I think I read somewhere that they used to, yes,' said Agnes, panting with the effort of keeping up. 'But that was a long time ago, Nannyl The ones I saw in Ankh-Morpork just handed out leaflets and preached in a big tent and sang rather dreary songs-'

'Hah! The leopard does not change his shorts, my girl!'

They ran along a corridor and out from behind a screen into the hubbub of the Great Hall.

'Knee-deep in nobs,' said Nanny, craning. 'Ah, there's our Shawn...'

Lancre's standing army was lurking by a pillar, probably in the hope that no one would see him in his footman's powdered wig, which had been made for a much bigger footman.

The kingdom didn't have much of an executive arm of government, and most of its actual hands belonged to Nanny Ogg's youngest son. Despite the earnest efforts of King Verence, who was quite a forward-looking ruler in a nervous kind of way, the people of Lancre could not be persuaded to accept a democracy at any price and the place had not, regrettably, attracted much in the way of government. A lot of the bits it couldn't avoid were done by Shawn. He emptied the palace privies, delivered its sparse mail, guarded the walls, operated the Royal Mint, balanced the budget, helped out the gardener in his spare time and, on those occasions these days when it was felt necessary to man the borders, and Verence felt that yellow and black striped poles did give a country such a professional look, he stamped passports, or at a pinch any other pieces of paper the visitor could produce, such as the back of an envelope, with a stamp he'd carved quite nicely out of half a potato. He took it all very seriously. At times like this, he buttled when Spriggins the butler was not on duty, or if an extra hand was needed he footed as well.

'Evening, our Shawn,' said Nanny Ogg. 'I see you've got that dead lamb on your head again.'

'Aoow, Mum,' said Shawn, trying to adjust the wig.

'Where's this priest that's doing the Naming?' said Nanny.

'What, Mum? Dunno, Mum. I stopped shouting out the names half an hour ago and got on to serving the bits of cheese on sticks  -  aoow, Mum, you shouldn't take that many, Mum!'[3]

Nanny Ogg sucked the cocktail goodies off four sticks in one easy movement, and looked speculatively at the throng.

'I'm going to have a word with young Verence,' said Nanny.

'He is the King, Nanny,' said Agnes.

'That's no reason for him to go around acting like he was royalty.'

'I think it is, actually.'

'None of that cheek. You just go and find this Omnian and keep an eye on him.'

'What should I look for?' said Agnes sourly. 'A column of smoke?'

'They all wear black,' said Nanny firmly. 'Hah! Typical!'

'Well? So do we.'

'Right! But ours is... ours is...' Nanny thumped her chest, causing considerable ripples, 'ours is the right black, right? Now, off you go and look inconspicuous,' added Nanny, a lady wearing a two-foot-tall pointed black hat. She stared around at the crowd again, and nudged her son.

'Shawn, you did deliver an invite to Esme Weatherwax, didn't you?'

He looked horrified. 'Of course, Mum.'

'Shove it under her door?'

'No, Mum. You know she gave me an earbashin' when the snails got at that postcard last year. I wedged it in the hinges, good and tight.'

'There's a good boy,' said Nanny.

Lancre people didn't bother much with letterboxes. Mail was infrequent but biting gales were not. Why have a slot in the door to let in unsolicited winds? So letters were left under large stones, wedged firmly in flowerpots or slipped under the door.

There were never very many.[4] Lancre operated on the feudal system, which was to say, everyone feuded all the time and handed on the fight to their descendants. The chips on some shoulders had been passed down for generations. Some had antique value. A bloody good grudge, Lancre reckoned, was like a fine old wine. You looked after it carefully and left it to your children.

You never wrote to anyone. If you had anything to say, you said it to their face. It kept everything nice and hot.

Agnes edged into the crowd, feeling stupid. She often did. Now she knew why Magrat Garlick had always worn those soppy floppy dresses and never wore the pointy hat. Wear the pointy hat and dress in black, and on Agnes there was plenty of black to go around, and everyone saw you in a certain way. You were A Witch. It had its good points. Among the bad ones was the fact that people turned to you when they were in trouble and never thought for a moment that you couldn't cope.

But she got a bit of respect, even from people who could remember her before she'd been allowed to wear the hat. They tended to make way for her, although people tended to make way in any case for Agnes when she was in full steam.

'Evening, miss...'

She turned and saw Hodgesaargh in full official regalia.

It was important not to smile at times like this, so Agnes kept a straight face and tried to ignore Perdita's hysterical laughter at the back of her mind.

She'd seen Hodgesaargh occasionally, around the edges of the woods or up on the moors. Usually the royal falconer was vainly fighting off his hawks, who attacked him for a pastime, and in the case of King Henry kept picking him up and dropping him again in the belief that he was a giant tortoise.

It wasn't that he was a bad falconer. A few other people in Lancre kept hawks and reckoned he was one of the best trainers in the mountains, possibly because he was so single-minded about it. It was just that he trained every feathery little killing machine so well that it became unable to resist seeing what he tasted like.

He didn't deserve it. Nor did he deserve his ceremonial costume. Usually, when not in the company of King Henry, he just wore working leathers and about three sticking plasters, but what he was wearing now had been designed hundreds of years before by someone with a lyrical view of the countryside who had never had to run through a bramble bush with a gerfalcon hanging on their ear. It had a lot of red and gold in it and would have looked much better on someone two feet taller who had the legs for red stockings. The hat was best not talked about, but if you had to, you'd talk about it in terms of something big, red and floppy. With a feather in it.

'Miss Nitt?' said Hodgesaargh.

'Sorry... I was looking at your hat.'

'It's good, isn't it?' said Hodgesaargh amiably. 'This is William. She's a buzzard. But she thinks she's a chicken. She can't fly. I'm having to teach her how to hunt.'

Agnes was craning her neck for any signs of overtly religious activity, but the incongruity of the slightly bedraggled creature on Hodgesaargh's wrist brought her gaze back down again.

'How?' she said.

'She walks into the burrows and kicks the rabbits to death. And I've almost cured her of crowing. Haven't I, William?'

'William?' said Agnes. 'Oh... yes.' To a falconer, she remembered, all hawks were 'she'.

'Have you seen any Omnians here?' she whispered, leaning down towards him.

'What kind of bird are they, miss?' said the falconer uneasily. He always seemed to have a preoccupied air when not discussing hawks, like a man with a big dictionary who couldn't find the index.

'Oh, er... don't worry about it, then.' She stared at William again and said, 'How? I mean, how does a bird like that think he's- she's a chicken?'

'Can happen all too easy, miss,' said Hodgesaargh. 'Thomas Peerless over in Bad Ass pinched an egg and put it under a broody hen, miss. He didn't take the chicken away in time. So William thought if her mum was a chicken, then so was she.'

'Well, that's-'

'And that's what happens, miss. When I raise them from eggs I don't do that. I've got a special glove, miss-'

'That's absolutely fascinating, but I'd better go,' said Agnes, quickly.

'Yes, miss.'

She'd spotted the quarry, walking across the hall.

There was something unmistakable about him. It was as if he was a witch. It wasn't that his black robe ended at the knees and became a pair of legs encased in grey socks and sandals, or that his hat had a tiny crown but a brim big enough to set out your dinner on. It was because wherever he walked he was in a little empty space that seemed to move around him, just like you got around witches. No one wanted to get too close to witches.

She couldn't see his face. He was making a beeline for the buffet table.

'Excuse me, Miss Nitt?'

Shawn had appeared at her side. He stood very stiffly, because if he made any sudden turns the oversized wig tended to spin on his head.

'Yes, Shawn?' said Agnes.

'The Queen wants a word, miss,' said Shawn.

'With me?'

'Yes, miss. She's up in the Ghastly Green Drawing Room, miss.' Shawn swivelled slowly. His wig stayed facing the same way.

Agnes hesitated. It was a royal command, she supposed, even if it was only from Magrat Garlick as was, and as such it superseded anything Nanny had asked her to do. Anyway, she had spotted the priest, and it was not as though he was going to set fire to everyone over the canapes. She'd better go.

A little hatch shot open behind the doleful Igor.

'Why've we stopped this time?'

'Troll'th in the way, marthter.'

'A what?'

Igor rolled his eyes. 'A troll'th in the way,' he said.

The hatch shut. There was a whispered conversation inside the coach. The hatch opened.

'You mean a troll?'

'Yeth, marthter.'

'Run it down!'

The troll advanced, holding a flickering torch above its head. At some point recently someone had said 'This troll needs a uniform' and had found that the only thing in the armoury that would fit was the helmet, and then only if you attached it to his head with string.

'The old Count wouldn't have told me to run it down,' Igor muttered, not quite under his breath. 'But, then, he wath a gentleman.'

'What was that?' a female voice snapped.

The troll reached the coach and banged its knuckles on its helmet respectfully.

'Evenin',' it said. 'Dis is a bit embarrassin'. You know a pole?'

'Pole?' said Igor suspiciously.

'It are a long wooden fing-'

'Yeth? Well? What about it?'

'I'd like you to imagine, right, dat dere's a black an' yellow striped one across dis road, right? Only 'cos we've only got der one, an' it's bein' used up on der Copperhead road tonight.'

The hatch slid open.

'Get a move on, man! Run it down !'

'I could go an' get it if you like,' said the troll, shifting nervously from one huge foot to the other. 'Only it wouldn't be here till tomorrow, right? Or you could pretend it's here right now, an' then I could pretend to lift it up, and dat'd be okay, right?'

'Do it, then,' said Igor. He ignored the grumbling behind him. The old Count had always been polite to trolls even though you couldn't bite them, and that was real class in a vampire.

'Only firs' I gotta stamp somethin',' said the troll. It held up half a potato and a paint-soaked rag.


'Shows you've bin past me,' said the troll.

'Yeth, but we will have been parthed you,' Igor pointed out. 'I mean, everyone will know we've been parthed you becauthe we are.'

'But it'll show you done it officially,' said the troll.

'What'll happen if we jutht drive on?' said Igor.

'Er... den I won't lift der pole,' said the troll.

Locked in a metaphysical conundrum, they both looked at the patch of road where the virtual pole barred the way.

Normally, Igor wouldn't have wasted any time. But the family had been getting on his nerves, and he reacted in the traditional way of the put-upon servant by suddenly becoming very stupid. He leaned down and addressed the coach's occupants through the hatch.

'It'th a border check, marthter,' he said. 'We got to have thomething thtamped.'

There was more whispering inside the coach, and then a large white rectangle, edged in gold, was thrust ungraciously through the hatch. Igor passed it down.

'Seems a shame,' said the troll, stamping it inexpertly and handing it back.

'What'th thith?' Igor demanded.


'Thith... thtupid mark!'

'Well, the potato wasn't big enough for the official seal and I don't know what a seal look like in any case but I reckon dat's a good carvin' of a duck I done there,' said the troll cheerfully. 'Now... are you ready? 'Cos I'm liftin' der pole. Here it goes now. Look at it pointin' up in der air like dat. Dis means you can go.'

The coach rolled on a little way and stopped just before the bridge.

The troll, aware that he'd done his duty, wandered towards it and heard what he considered to be a perplexing conversation, although to Big Jim Beef most conversations involving polysyllabic words were shrouded in mystery.

'Now, I want you to all pay attention-'

'Father, we have done this before.'

'The point can't be hammered home far enough. That is the Lancre River down there. Running water. And we will cross it. It is as well to consider that your ancestors, although quite capable of undertaking journeys of hundreds of miles, nevertheless firmly believed that they couldn't cross a stream. Do I need to point out the contradiction?'

'No, Father.'

'Good. Cultural conditioning would be the death of us, if we are not careful. Drive on, Igor.'

The troll watched them go. Coldness seemed to follow them across the bridge.

Granny Weatherwax was airborne again, glad of the clean, crisp air. She was well above the trees and, to the benefit of all concerned, no one could see her face.

Isolated homesteads passed below, a few with lighted windows but most of them dark, because people would long ago have headed for the palace.

There was a story under every roof, she knew. She knew all about stories. But those down there were the stories that were never to be told, the little secret stories, enacted in little rooms...

They were about those times when medicines didn't help and headology was at a loss because a mind was a rage of pain in a body that had become its own enemy, when people were simply in a prison made of flesh, and at times like this she could let them go. There was no need for desperate stuff with a pillow, or deliberate mistakes with the medicine. You didn't push them out of the world, you just stopped the world pulling them back. You just reached in, and... showed them the way.

There was never anything said. Sometimes you saw in the face of the relatives the request they'd never, ever put words around, or maybe they'd say, 'Is there something you can do for him?' and this was, perhaps, the code. If you dared ask, they'd be shocked that you might have thought they meant anything other than, perhaps, a comfier pillow.

And any midwife, out in isolated cottages on bloody nights, would know all the other little secrets...

Never to be told...

She'd been a witch here all her life. And one of the things a witch did was stand right on the edge, where the decisions had to be made. You made them so that others didn't have to, so that others could even pretend to themselves that there were no decisions to be made, no little secrets, that things just happened. You never said what you knew. And you didn't ask for anything in return.

The castle was brightly lit, she saw. She could even make out figures around the bonfire.

Something else caught her eye, because she was going to look everywhere but at the castle now, and it jolted her out of her mood. Mist was pouring over the mountains and sliding down the far valleys under the moonlight. One strand was flowing towards the castle and pouring, very slowly, into the Lancre Gorge.

Of course you got mists in the spring, when the weather was changing, but this mist was coming from Uberwald.

The door to Magrat's room was opened by Millie Chillum, the maid, who curtseyed to Agnes, or at least to her hat, and then left her alone with the Queen, who was at her dressing table.

Agnes wasn't sure of the protocol, but tried a sort of republican curtsey. This caused considerable movement in outlying regions.

Queen Magrat of Lancre blew her nose and stuffed the hankie up the sleeve of her dressing gown.

'Oh, hello, Agnes,' she said. 'Take a seat, do. You don't have to bob up and down like that.

Millie does it all the time and I get seasick. Anyway, strictly speaking, witches bow.'

'Er...' Agnes began. She glanced at the crib in the corner. It had more loops and lace than any piece of furniture should.

'She's asleep,' said Magrat. 'Oh, the crib? Verence ordered it all the way from Ankh-Morpork. I said the old one they'd always used was fine, but he's very, you know... modern. Please sit down.'.

'You wanted me, your maj-' Agnes began, still uncertain. It was turning out to be a very complicated evening, and she wasn't sure even now how she felt about Magrat. The woman had left echoes of herself in the cottage  -  an old bangle lost under the bed, rather soppy notes in some of the ancient notebooks, vases full of desiccated flowers... You can build up a very strange view of someone via the things they leave behind the dresser.

'I just wanted a little talk,' said Magrat. 'It's a bit... look, I'm really very happy, but... well, Millie's nice but she agrees with me all the time and Nanny and Granny still treat me as if I wasn't, well, you know, Queen and everything... not that I want to be treated as Queen all the time but, well, you know, I want them to know I'm Queen but not treat me as one, if you see what I mean...'

'I think so,' said Agnes carefully.

Magrat waved her hands in an effort to describe the indescribable. Used handkerchiefs cascaded out of her sleeves.

'I mean... I get dizzy with people bobbing up and down all the time, so when they see me I like them to think, "Oh, there's Magrat, she's Queen now but I shall treat her in a perfectly normal way-"'

'But perhaps just a little bit more politely because she is Queen, after all,' Agnes suggested.

'Well, yes... exactly. Actually, Nanny's not too bad, at least she treats everyone the same all the time, but when Granny looks at me you can see her thinking, "Oh, there's Magrat. Make the tea, Magrat." One day I swear I'll make a very cutting remark. It's as if they think I'm doing this as a hobby!'

'I do know what you mean.'

'It's as if they think I'm going to get it out of my system and go back to witching again. They wouldn't say that, of course, but that's what they think. They really don't believe there's any other sort of life.'

'That's true.'

'How's the old cottage?'

'There's a lot of mice,' said Agnes.

'I know. I used to feed them. Don't tell Granny. She's here, isn't she?'

'Haven't seen her yet,' said Agnes.

'Ah, she'll be waiting for a dramatic moment,' said Magrat. 'And you know what? I've never caught her actually waiting for a dramatic moment, not in all the, well, things we've been involved in. I mean, if it was you or me, we'd be hanging around in the hall or something, but she just walks in and it's the right time.'

'She says you make your own right time,' said Agnes.

'Yes,' said Magrat.

'Yes,' said Agnes.

'And you say she's not here yet? It was the first card we did!' Magrat leaned closer. 'Verence got them to put extra gold leaf on it. I'm amazed it doesn't go clang when she puts it down. How are you at making the tea?'

'They always complain,' said Agnes.

'They do, don't they? Three lumps of sugar for Nanny Ogg, right?'

'It's not as if they even give me tea money,' said Agnes. She sniffed. There was a slight mustiness to the air.

'It's not worth baking biscuits, I can tell you that,' said Magrat. 'I used to spend hours doing fancy ones with crescent moons and so on. You might just as well get them from the shop.'

She sniffed too. 'That's not the baby,' she said. 'I'm sure Shawn Ogg's been so busy arranging things he hasn't had time to dean up the privy pit the last two weeks. The smell comes right up the garderobe in the Gong Tower when the wind gusts. I've tried hanging up fragrant herbs but they sort of dissolve.'

She looked uncertain, as if a worse prospect than lax castle sani-tation had crossed her mind. 'Er... she must've got the invitation, mustn't she?'

'Shawn says he delivered it,' said Agnes. 'And she probably said,' and here her voice changed, becoming dipped and harsh, '"I can't be havin' with that at my time of life. I've never bin one to put meself forward, no one could ever say I'm one to put meself forward."'

Magrat's mouth was an O of amazement.

'That's so like her it's frightening!' she said.

'It's one of the few things I'm good at,' said Agnes, in her normal voice. 'Big hair, a wonderful personality, and an ear for sounds.' And two minds, Perdita added. 'She'll come anyway,' Agnes went on, ignoring the inner voice.

'But it's gone half eleven... Good grief, I'd better get dressed! Can you give me a hand?'

She hurried into the dressing room with Agnes tagging along behind.

'I even wrote a bit underneath asking her to be a godmother,' she said, sitting down in front of the mirror and scrabbling among the debris of makeup. 'She's always secretly wanted to be one.'

'That's something to wish on a child,' said Agnes, without thinking.

Magrat's hand stopped halfway to her face, in a of powder, and Agnes saw her horrified look in the mirror. Then the jaw tightened, and for a moment the Queen had just the same expression that Granny sometimes employed.

'Well, if it was a choice of wishing a child health, wealth and happiness, or Granny Weatherwax being on her side, I know which I'd choose,' said Magrat. 'You must have seen her in action.'

'Once or twice, yes,' Agnes conceded.

'She'll never be beaten,' said Magrat. 'You wait till you see her when she's in a tight corner. She's

got that way of... putting part of herself somewhere safe. It's as if... as if she gives herself to someone else to keep hidden for a while. It's all part of that Borrowing stuff she does.'

Agnes nodded. Nanny had warned her about it but, even so, it was unnerving to turn up at Granny's cottage and find her stretched out on the floor as stiff as a stick and holding, in fingers that were almost blue, a card with the words: I ATE'NT DEAD.[5] It just meant that she was out in the world somewhere, seeing life through the eyes of a badger or a pigeon, riding as an unheeded passenger in its mind.

'And you know what?' Magrat went on. 'It's just like those magicians in Howondaland who keep their heart hidden in a jar somewhere, for safety, so they can't be killed. There's something about it in a book at the cottage.'

'Wouldn't have to be a big jar,' said Agnes.

'That wasn't fair,' said Magrat. She paused. 'Well... not fair for most of the time. Often, anyway. Sometimes, at least. Can you help me with this bloody ruff?'

There was a gurgle from the cradle.

'What name are you giving her?' said Agnes.

'You'll have to wait,' said Magrat.

It made some sort of sense, Agnes admitted, as she followed Magrat and the maids to the hall. In Lancre you named children at midnight so that they started a day with a new name. She didn't know why it made sense. It just felt as though, once, someone had found that it worked. Lancrastians never threw away anything that worked. The trouble was, they seldom changed anything that worked, either.

She'd heard that this was depressing King Verence, who was teaching himself kinging out of books. His plans for better irrigation and agriculture were warmly applauded by the people of Lancre, who then did nothing about them. Nor did they take any notice of his scheme for sanitation, i.e., that there should be some, since the Lancrastian idea of posh sanitation was a non-slippery path to the privy and a mailorder catalogue with really soft pages. They'd agreed to the idea of a Royal Society for the Betterment of Mankind, but since this largely consisted of as much time as Shawn Ogg had to spare on Thursday afternoons Mankind was safe from too much Betterment for a while, although Shawn had invented draught excluders for some of the windier parts of the castle, for which the King had awarded him a small medal.

The people of Lancre wouldn't dream of living in anything other than a monarchy. They'd done so for thousands of years and knew that it worked. But they'd also found that it didn't do to pay too much attention to what the King wanted, because there was bound to be another king along in forty years or so and he'd be certain to want something different and so they'd have gone to all that trouble for nothing. In the meantime, his job as they saw it was to mostly stay in the palace, practise the waving, have enough sense to face the right way on coins and let them get on with the ploughing, sowing, growing and harvesting. It was, as they saw it, a social contract. They did what they always did, and he let them.

But sometimes, he kinged...

In Lancre Castle, King Verence looked at himself in the mirror and sighed.

'Mrs Ogg,' he said, adjusting his crown, 'I have, as you know, a great respect for the witches of Lancre but this is, with respect, broadly a matter of general policy which, I respectfully submit, is a matter for the King.' He adjusted the crown again, while Spriggins the butler brushed his robe. 'We must be tolerant. Really, Mrs Ogg, I haven't seen you in a state like this before-'

'They go round setting fire to people !' said Nanny, annoyed at all the respect.

'Used to, I believe,' said Verence.

'And it was witches they burned!'

Verence removed his crown and polished it with his sleeve in an infuriatingly reasonable manner.

'I've always understood they set fire to practically everybody,' he said, 'but that was some time ago, wasn't it?'

'Our Jason heard 'em preaching once down in Ohulan and they was saying some very nasty things about witches,' said Nanny.

'Sadly, not everyone knows witches like we do,' said Verence, with what Nanny in her overheated state thought was unnecessary diplomacy.

'And our Wayne said they tries to turn folk against other religions,' she went on. 'Since they opened up that mission of theirs even the Offlerians have upped sticks and gone. I mean, it's one thing saying you've got the best god, but sayin' it's the only real one is a bit of a cheek, in my opinion. I know where I can find at least two any day of the week. And they say everyone starts out bad and only gets good by believin' in Om, which is frankly damn nonsense. I mean, look at your little girl- What's her name going to be, now...?'

'Everyone will know in twenty minutes, Nanny,' said Verence smoothly.

'Hah!' Nanny's tone made it clear that Radio Ogg disapproved of this news management. 'Well, look... the worst she could put her little hand up to at her age is a few grubby nappies and keepin' you awake at night. That's hardly sinful, to my mind.'

'But you've never objected to the Gloomy Brethren, Nanny. Or to the Wonderers. And the Balancing Monks come through here all the time.'

'But none of them object to me,' said Nanny.

Verence turned. He was finding this disconcerting. He knew Nanny Ogg very well, but mainly as the person standing just behind Granny Weatherwax and smiling a lot. It was hard to deal with an angry Ogg..

'I really think you're taking this too much to heart, Mrs Ogg,' he said.

'Granny Weatherwax won't like it!' Nanny played the trump card. To her horror, it didn't seem to have the desired effect.

'Granny Weatherwax isn't King, Mrs Ogg,' said Verence. 'And the world is changing. There is a new order. Once upon a time trolls were monsters that ate people but now, thanks to the endeavours of men, and of course trolls, of goodwill and peaceful intent, we get along very well and I hope we understand each other. This is no longer a time when little kingdoms need only worry about little concerns. We're part of a big world. We have to play that part. For example, what about the Muntab question?'
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