Home > The Shepherd's Crown (Discworld #41)(2)

The Shepherd's Crown (Discworld #41)(2)
Terry Pratchett

‘And if any of them scuggans wants to come back and try again, we’re always ready for them, ye ken,’ he added hopefully. ‘I’m sure we can give them oor best Feegle hospitality.’ He drew his wiry blue frame up to its full six inches and brandished his claymore at an invisible enemy.

The effect, Tiffany thought, not for the first time, was quite impressive.

‘Those ancient raiders are all long dead,’ she said before she could stop herself, even though her Second Thoughts were telling her to listen properly. If Jeannie – Rob’s wife and the kelda of the Feegle clan – had seen trouble a-brewing, well, it was likely that trouble was on the way.

‘Dead? Weel, so are we,’ said Rob.fn1

‘Alas,’ Tiffany sighed. ‘In those long-ago days, mortals just died. They didn’t come back like you seem to do.’

‘They would if they had some of our brose.’

‘What’s that?’ asked Tiffany.

‘Weel, it’s a kind of porridge with everything in it and, if possible, ye ken, a dram of brandy or some of your old granny’s Sheep Liniment.’

Tiffany laughed, but that uneasiness remained. I need to speak to Jeannie, she thought. Need to know why she and my boots are both feeling the same thing.

When they arrived at the large grassy mound nearby that housed the intricate warren of the Feegle dwelling, Tiffany and Rob made their way over to the patch of briars which concealed the main entrance and found Jeannie sitting outside, eating a sandwich.

Mutton, Tiffany thought with just a tinge of annoyance. She was well aware of the agreement with the Feegles that they could have the occasional old ewe in exchange for the fun of fightin’ off the corbies that would otherwise swoop down on the young lambs, who were doing their best to do what lambs did best: get lost, and get dead. The lost lambs up on the Chalk had a new trick now – heading at speed across the downs, sometimes backwards, with a Feegle under each tiny foot, as they were returned to the flock.

A kelda needed a big appetite, for there was only one kelda in a Nac Mac Feegle clan, and she had a lot of sons, plus the occasional lucky daughter popping out.fn2 Each time Tiffany saw Jeannie, the little kelda was a bit wider and a bit rounder. Those hips took work, and Jeannie was certainly working hard at getting them bigger right now as she tackled what looked like half a sheep’s leg between two bits of bread. No mean feat for a Feegle only six inches high, and as Jeannie grew to become a wise old kelda, the word ‘belt’ would no longer signify something to hold up her kilt but just something to mark her equator.

Young Feegles were herding snails and wrestling. They were bouncing off each other, off the walls, and sometimes off their own boots. They were in awe of Tiffany, seeing in her a kind of kelda, and they stopped brawling and looked at her nervously as she approached.

‘Line up, lads, show oor hag how hard ye ha’ been workin’,’ their mother said with pride in her voice, wiping a smear of mutton fat off her lips.

Oh no, Tiffany thought. What am I going to see? I hope it doesn’t involve snails . . .

But Jeannie said, ‘Let yon hag hear your ABC now. Come on, you start, Slightly-more-wee-than-wee-Jock-Jock.’

The first Feegle in the line scratched at his spog and flicked a small beetle out. It seems to be a fact of life that a Feegle’s spog will always be itchy, Tiffany thought, possibly because what is kept in it might still be alive. Slightly-more-wee-than-wee-Jock-Jock swallowed. ‘A is for . . . axe,’ he bellowed. ‘To cut yer heid off, ye ken,’ he added with a proud boast.

‘B is for boot!’ shouted the next Feegle, wiping something that looked like snail slime down the front of his kilt. ‘So as to stamp on yer heid.’

‘An’ C is for claymore . . . and crivens, I’ll gi’e ye sich a guid kickin’ if’n you stick that sword intae me one muir time,’ shouted the third, turning and hurling himself at one of his brothers.

A yellowing crescent-shaped object fell to the ground as the brawl spun off into the brambles, and Rob snatched it up and tried to hide it behind his back.

Tiffany narrowed her eyes. That had looked suspiciously like . . . yes, a bit of old toenail!

‘Weel,’ said Rob, shuffling his feet, ‘ye is always cuttin’ these little chunks off’n them old gentl’men you goes to visit most days. They fly out o’ the winders, jus’ waitin’ for a body to pick ’em up. An’ they is hard as nails, ye ken.’

‘Yes, that’s because they are nails—’ Tiffany began, then stopped. After all, maybe someone like old Mr Nimlet would like to know that parts of his body were still ready for a scrap. Even if he himself couldn’t get out of a chair without help these days.

The kelda drew her to one side now, and said, ‘Weel, hen, your name is in the soil. It talks to you, Tir-far-thóinn, Land Under Wave. Do you talk to it?’

‘Yes,’ said Tiffany. ‘Only sometimes though. But I do listen, Jeannie.’

‘Not every day?’ said the kelda.

‘No, not every day. So much to do, so much to do.’

‘I ken that,’ said the kelda. ‘Ye know that I watch over you. I watch ye in my heid, but I also see ye whizzing aboot over me heid. And ye must remember ye are a long time deid.’

Tiffany sighed, weary to her bones. Going around the houses – that was what you did if you were a compassionate witch, what she and all the other witches did to fill in the gaps in the world, doing things that had to be done: carrying logs in for an old lady or popping on a pot of stew for a dinner, bringing a herbal remedy for a sore leg or a troublesome ache, fetching a basket of ‘spare’ eggs or second-hand clothes for a new baby in a house where money was scarce, and listening, oh yes, always listening to people’s troubles and worries. And the toenails . . . those toenails, they seemed to be as hard as flint, and sometimes an old boy without friends or family would have his toenails twisting inside his boots.

Hot Novels
  • Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Chris
  • Fifty Shades Freed (Fifty Shades #3)
  • Never Too Far (Too Far Trilogy #2)
  • Fifty Shades Darker (Fifty Shades #2)
  • Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine’s Peculi
  • Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades #1)
  • Fallen Too Far (Too Far Trilogy #1)
  • Forever Too Far (Too Far Trilogy #3)
  • Ugly Love
  • Allegiant (Divergent #3)
  • Hold on Tight (Sea Breeze #8)
  • Bared to You (Crossfire #1)
  • The Destiny of Violet & Luke (The Coinc
  • Captivated by You (Crossfire #4)
  • Uprooted