"It’s got to be in foreign parts,” Nanny Ogg said doggedly. “Everyone knows a hen party ain’t real unless it’s happening a long way away from where you live.”
Tiffany was beginning to regret ever asking Nanny Ogg to be involved in preparations for her impending marriage to Preston. As was often the way with people who spent a lot of their time sorting out other people’s lives, she didn’t see what all the fuss was about. She’d foolishly though it was going to be a case of taking the day off, turning up in her nicest gown and a few people around shouting “huzzah!” in that slightly over cheerful way people did at weddings and then life would just go on.
That was before she had mentioned it to Nanny Ogg.
“Partly because you don’t want anyone to know who was responsible for the goings ons,” Granny Weatherwax disapproved. “We went over the mountain for Magrat’s. Techn’cally after she was married though.”
“So, for yours it makes sense that you should come to Lancre,” Nanny said cheerfully. “Nobody knows you there. Not yet, at least.” Which implied that they might after what ever Nanny had planned. Tiffany wished that she had remembered quite what a motivating force Nanny could be – that was her own particularly skill, getting people to underestimate her, even other witches.
“Nanny, it’s very kind of you, but I really didn’t want to have a lot of fuss,” Tiffany replied carefully.
“Then you shouldn’t have involved Gytha Ogg,” Granny Weatherwax said with a sniff. “Witches don’t get married that often, so it’s tradition to make a fuss and have a Hen Party. That’s all there is to it.”
“Besides, everyone’s looking forward to it,” Nanny Ogg said with a grin. “Your Miss Tick, and Anna-whatshername, and that young pig woman, and even Ol’ Mother Dismass. Loves a party does Mother Dismass.” This ignored the possibility that Old Mother Dismass might not realise she was in fact at a party and, if she did, usually spoke at a level of incoherence that others needed a great deal of alcohol to attain.
Tiffany tried to regain control of the conversation that had spiralled out of control. “Fine, if we have to. But I don’t want things to get out of hand. Something low key okay? Just something quiet.”
“Of course, dear. But that’s why it’s so important that we do it in Lancre, you see? That way, Esme and I can arrange everything, and I can do the cooking myself.” There was a dangerous gleam in Nanny Ogg’s eyes. “My famous Blancmange Surprise for example.”
Blancmange wasn’t particularly surprising, or famous on the Chalk. Tiffany suppressed another sigh recognising an irresistible force when she met one. If she could deal with the Nac Mac Feegle, she could surely deal with a Hen Party. She nodded a little. “When should I fly over?” she asked.
“Oh, I don’t see any reason for you to fly over ‘til the night before the wedding. Me and Esme, we’ll handle the details.” Nanny fixed her with a beady-eyed look. “But don’t you be bringing any of them little blue men of yours, or your Prezzy. You tell them it’s females only.”
Preston, it seemed, had acquired a new nickname.
“His name is Preston, he’s not a present Nanny,” Tiffany corrected. Her Preston who could be infuriating, interesting, smart, amazing, stupidly brave on occasion and could talk the hind leg off a donkey but managed to always have something interesting to say. He deserved his full name.
Nanny Ogg snorted. “You’ll be calling him Prezzy soon enough. If he’s lucky, on your wedding night, it’ll be a big Prezzy for you!”
Even though she was a Witch of her own steading and had been now for some time, and thought herself unshockable there was something about Nanny Ogg’s way of saying things that made Tiffany’s cheeks burn with a blush.
“Er...thank you for that Nanny,” she said. “I guess...I’m looking forward to it.”
“Of course, with some men it’s not size that matters so much,” Nanny went on reflectively. “Girth, now..”
“Gytha!” There was only so much Granny Weatherwax would put up with. “That will be quite enough!”
Nanny Ogg just grinned at her. “See you soon Tiff. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure it’s all tasteful and stuff. “ She had to be practically dragged out of the room by Granny Weatherwax and Tiffany would have probably worried about it more if there hadn’t have been the whole outbreak of Spring Fever, and that business with the rival Feegles and some complicated small blue man type of politics, and somehow... It was nearly her wedding and there was too much to do.
There had genuinely been a last minute crisis that Tiffany had to deal on the night of her Hen Party, and maybe she hadn't flown as quickly as she could have done because she didn't have to be a witch to have a horrifying premonition about the evening.
They would know what had happened - Granny would have scryed it in her cup of tea or something so it really wasn't a surprise to end up in Lancre and be aware that there was a whole coven of Witches already well on their way to decimating the bar in the local tavern and most of the other houses were locked up and shuttered tight as if some natural disaster was expected.
It was the singing that provided the first warning of the nature of that. Everyone was used to hearing Nanny Ogg singing of course, usually through several sets of earplugs and metal doors where possible but this tangled mess of sound could only be described to someone who had heard cats fighting with rhinoceroses (possibly in some kind of crazed jungle battle) and thought that all it needed was a backbeat and more volume.
Nanny broke away from her cheerful yowling verse of 'you can do it with a combination harvester, if the sixth eights gripley doesn't stall' and waved, bouncing up and down with enthusiasm the moment she set foot in the tavern. "Here, Tiff! TIFF! Have a drink!" And a glass of something in a neon shade of pink was passed from witch to witch towards her. All she could see was a sea of pointy hats and no one else. She was grateful that Letitia was at least not able to come as she had refused to try and fly her broomstick while pregnant because despite presumably knowing the tab A and slot B of life, further exposure to Nanny Ogg might result in a population explosion.
"It's strawberries," Nanny informed her happily as she examined the suspiciously pink drink. "Mostly."
Tiffany sniffed at it cautiously and could feel the alcohol rising from the glass making her eyes sting. "Strawberry scumble? Whoever came up with that?"
Nanny burped, and cast a cautious glance towards Magrat. "Just a little goblin I know."
"She means she did, but she doesn't want to say so in front of me in case I feel obliged to try to tax it." People said that motherhood had made Magrat a lot sharper in a way that being queen had not. Tiffany suspected it had a lot to do with having to deal with the inexplicable stickiness of children on a daily basis.
"Witches are exempt, everyone knows that," Annagramma said loftily, nearly hitting over her own drink with her natural grandiose gesture. "I mean , I literally don't want to know what happens to someone who tries to tax one of us.”
“They get paid the tax,” Granny Weatherwax said primly from the corner. “If they are brave enough to ask they deserve it.”
It was a good point. Even Roland seemed uncomfortable in asking her to pay anything now for anything. She smiled a little to herself at that and at the threats she had levels regarding Preston making it through the stag night and to the wedding in time. She suspected she’d know where to find him if the best man forgot where they had tied him up naked – that pigsty was a time of beginnings and endings for them all.
“Drink up!” Nanny Ogg encouraged. “That’s just the start. I’ve been planning this special! They’ve even let us pretty much have the whole place to ourselves so we can really let our hair down. We all brought something!”
“I brought...bacon,” Petulia slurred a little in her direction, gesturing wildly with her wand. “An’ And a load of pickled pigs trotters with special spices.”
“Proper nobby food and all,” Nanny Ogg agreed. “I brought loads! Magrat even got some of that fishegg stuff sent up.”
“Caviar, Nanny,” Magrat said with a sigh.
“Agnes, pass the fish jam,” Granny ordered the solidly built younger witch next to them both.
“Are you actually having some?” Agnes asked in amazement.
“Maybe I am,” Granny Weatherwax replied stiffly and Tiffany found herself amazed as Granny Weatherwax took the tiny cracker with glistening caviar on it. There were so many large personalities in the room they were all jostling for attention and Tiffany found herself blinking owlishly and nearly missing the moment where a white paw deftly reached out from under Granny’s hat and hooked the tiny treat back into the depths.
It made her grin, but that might have been the one sip of strawberry scumble.
“I of course made an exotic recipe of banana and rum trifle,” Annagramma said waving a hand loftily. “Not easy to get bananas. Very expensive.”
“We’ve been trying to grow them at the palace,” Magrat put in, hiccupping. “Had to cross it with a Lancre squash. It has an amazingly tough skin. If you slip on it you can impale yourself on it as well. Shawn is making a good recovery.”
“The dwarves are thinking about expanding from battle bread to Fighting Fruit,” Agnes said with a smirk and Tiffany noted the growing core of steel in the other witch. That was interesting – they were pretty close in age and it would be interesting to see what was going on there. She could still see with her Second sight twin personalities in the other woman and it made her wonder if that was why the music and magic seemed to exist side by side in her when everyone said it was one or the other. It was intriguing and she...
“You’ll start deafening us with those Second thoughts of yours if you are not careful,” Granny said and Tiffany rather foolishly took a mouthful of her drink to cover her statement. She could practically feel her brains dissolving. “It’s time for the Brides Blessing before some people get so drunk you’ll be wished a purple spotted pet frog.”
“Or toad.” Miss Tick giggled girlishly and nearly fell off her chair. Tiffany could hazily remember a time when Miss Tick had seemed so full of authority. She was full of something completely different right now.
“Did you do a Bride’s blessing for Magrat?” she asked.
“Oh yes,” Magrat smiled and she seemed relatively sober so Tiffany tried not to seem too much in shock. “Don’t worry, it all works out. I’ll go first. Tiffany Aching, may your love not stand in the way of duty and your duty not stand in the way of love.”
She could feel the subtle tangle of magic drift around her, like a cobweb lightly touching her face.
“Hey, I used that one at your Brides Blessing,” Nanny Ogg protested. “Is a good one...now I’ve got to think of another.”
“Er, take your time?” Tiffany offered hopefully.
Annagramma stood unsteadily and waved a wand dramatically. “May your marriage be blessed by the powers of the High Magick and bring you power and prestige and p..p...”
“..pigs!” shouted Petulia in excitement jumping up. “ ‘veryone needs pigs!”
Tiffany blinked as she felt that drunken blessing take hold as well. Well should there be a plague of pigs the Nac Mac Feegle could stop stealing sheep and cows from the Chalk.
Miss Tick waved a drunken hand. “May you find in each other the answers to the question of who you are,” she proclaimed loudly and then belched with a look of astonishment.
Agnes stood next, stepping forward from the shadowy corner. “May the song in your hearts match the one on your lips,” she said in a quiet voice and Tiffany sensed rather than saw Granny Weatherwaxes nod of approval. She certainly felt the magic take hold on that one as well.
One by one the assembled witches issued their blessing, ranging from the prosaic wishes for good health, fertility, stamina in bed – she had been surprised Nanny hadn’t jumped on that one - and in the case of Old Mother Dismass a jar of honey, that she was probably buying last week. It wasn’t as bad as Tiffany thought but there was still Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax to go, and that filled her with trepidation.
“Okay then Tiff, I’ve got a good one,” Nanny declared swigging back another beer as she stood and Tiffany braced herself. “May you love together, live together and always finish what you start together.” It was the grin that filled that with innuendo that set Tiffany to blushing again. “Trust me, Tiff, no one wants to be finishing up on their own.”
“Gytha!” Granny said warningly.
“What? It’s a perfectly innocent blessing Esme,” Nanny replied and then ruined it as her face crinkled into a smile. “Where’s yours?”
“Still thinkin’,” Granny replied. “Some of us like to do that on occasion.”
“Then we’ll get on to the good stuff!” Nanny Ogg declared apparently oblivious to the barb in Granny’s response. “I heard about this in...in Ankh Morpork when we were there and we visited that Mrs Palm. You’re...you’re meant to have a sexy young man dance and show you what you’re going to be missing when you get married. Wish I’d had that at one of my Hen party things..”
Tiffany was definitely starting to feel a little blurry around the edges. “But Nanny you said...you said, no men.” She wasn’t entirely convinced the Feegles weren’t around here somewhere because she was pretty sure not all the scumble gone from her glass had made it past her lips. If it had she was in a whole lot of trouble.
“Well, strictly speaking that’s the case!” Nanny said with a grin and inexplicably got out a kipper and put it on the table. “Agnes, sort out the music will you? Esme...you’re probably the only one with the most concentration right now...”
To Tiffany’s amazement some sort of bawdy music started up courtesy of Agnes, and the semi drunken witches started whooping with excitement as Nanny Ogg placed Greebo on top of one of the tables with the disturbing words of “There’ll be a kipper in it for you, like I promised!”.
As Granny Weatherwax squinted at the battle scarred tomcat, and he began to shift and get up into a human form – a leather clad, mouth dryingly lean muscled and bursting with raw sexuality human form, Tiffany decided that there wasn’t enough scumble in the world to deal with this and gulped it back. By the time she recovered from the alcoholic shock, Greebo was doing some truly outrageous things on the table and then the bar, that had her sitting with her jaw dropped – even as the witch part of her brain kept telling her she was watching a cat jumping around. Not the visceral response of her human body to a red hot male.
It certainly wasn’t stopping anyone from enjoying themselves – Annagramma was practically drooling, and Nanny Ogg was shouting out instructions and recommendations and inexplicably declaring “It was time for the Blancmange!” before the curiously wobbly dessert was served out.
It was rather nice if warming, and Tiffany found herself loosening her collar and starting to take notes about what parts of this dancing she might be able to persuade Preston to do. Before she knew it she was shouting out and laughing hysterically as well whenever someone said something remotely close to the mark. She even laughed when a band of Feegles burst in making Miss Tick fall off her stool, believing there was a conflict to the death going on inside from all the screaming and raucous laughter.
“Crivens!” Wee Mad Arthur said as they screeched to a halt. “If yon carlins were back in the city, there would be a mighty bunch of arresting for being Naughtily Drunk ye ken.”
“We’re not drunk,” she protested. “Jus...” It was too late; the Feegles had spotted the scumble.
“Ach now,” Rob Anybody said somehow contriving to get nearer to the scumble. “Dinna fash yourself...tis a hag night ye ken, and yon bigjobs wouldna deprive them as boggin fer a wee dram o’ the special sheeps liniment after rushing so fast to an heroic rescue.”
“That’s scumble,” Tiffany said feeling she ought to warn them. “It’s probably not drinkable.”
“Oh aye, we have the knowing and the drinkin’ of all things,” Rob Anybody said as the Feegle poured out the equivalent of a bucket’s worth each. “A drink to the Hag o’ the Hills! Gonnagle, ye finest playing for our hag!”
There was a massive cheer from witches and Nac Mac Feegle alike – and even Greebo who was finally allowed the promised kipper and reverted rapidly back to being a cat much to Tiffany’s relief as the mousepipes began to play.
Unfortunately, it was also the point where things started to get a little hazy for Tiffany. She remember laughing a lot as if it had been dammed up inside of her somewhere waiting to get out as Nanny Ogg told outrageous joke after outrageous joke. She remembered Petulia and Annagramma of all people demonstrating what ‘skyclad’ was all about after Magrat made a royal decree banning clothes and she wasn’t entirely sure that she hadn’t joined them as she had splinters where none should be. She remembered nearly laughing herself sick as Agnes did impressions of the other witches and shattered some of the glasses with a single note and then somehow unshattered them by doing something complicated with harmonics. She remembered the Nac Mac Feegles standing in awe of ‘carlin bigjobs who could show Feegles a wee bit about how to party the noo’. She remembered magic crackling joyfully and wildly among them all as the Witches let their hair down for once unfettered by the dictates of their calling and free just to let go. There was something with broomsticks and racing up and down the street backwards and Tiffany felt the weight of the world lift from her shoulders long enough to laugh and feel in full measure.
By the time it reached the wee hours of the morning, she was sure she had only closed her eyes for a few moments, but when they opened again, she could see the witches in dishevelled heaps around her. The Nac Mac Feegles were piled into the remnants of a barrel of scumble, with peculiar echoing snores and mutters rising up from the depths as they absently sleep-fought with each other. Somehow she was now wearing something sparkly, a feather boa and there was a very confused looking bear with multicoloured fur and glitter on it backed up against a wall as if it had been cornered. It looked at her plaintively until she pushed herself up and staggered to the door, and opened it to let the creature out.
It slunk out furtively and Tiffany tried to piece together what had happened, without much in the way of success. It wouldn’t be that much longer before daybreak.
“You’re awake then.”
Of course Granny Weatherwax would be awake. She was sitting there near the shadows created by the fire, sharp eyed and sober.
“In a manner of speaking,” she admitted. Her head was definitely feeling the effects of the scumble. “It’s already my wedding day. I’m not ready!“ Already her wedding day and suddenly it seemed too soon after months of impatient waiting.
“Show me a bride who is ready on her wedding day, and I’ll show you one who hasn’t thought about what she is doing.” Granny Weatherwax. “Gytha was nervous every time. You’d think she’d had enough practice. It’s a big thing being a witch and a wife. Got to be a special man to deal with that.”
“Preston is special,” she said immediately. He knew the sound of love, and how many men knew that?
“Could you live without him?” Granny asked and that was her way wasn’t it? To ask the difficult questions. She stuck the needle in to pierce down to the truth inside. The answer should be 'no' if the stories were right. No, he was her world, no he was her everything, that was what a bride should be thinking on her wedding day.
“Yes.” She looked Granny Weatherwax in the eye, holding the gaze steady. “I could. But I choose not to.”
Granny smiled just a little. “Good answer. You’re a witch and our lives are bigger than what we want. You know that. I’m not going to give you advice on being a good wife...I aten’t got the right. Truth is, most newlyweds figure that out or not on their own. I’ve met your Preston. He’s not so far from being one of us. He takes the power of life and death in his hands when he picks up one of those sharp knives of his and takes it to a living body. You have to have steel inside for that.”
Tiffany nodded. “And I am flint.” Steel and flint...sparks would fly? Was that what Granny was saying? But how else could they set fire to the world with what they wanted to do?
“The king of stones,” Granny agreed and then nodded thoughtfully. “You’ll do. So will he.”
Tiffany sagged a little with relief. For all her pride, it was if she had been waiting for that approval ever since she had told them all about the wedding.
“The wedding! I better get going,” she said trying to gather her things up and coordinate her head.
“You get going,” Granny agreed, “I’’ll get this lot up and decent and we’ll be along later. As decent as they can be any way.”
Tiffany headed towards the door and her Third Thoughts interrupted her. What was Granny Weatherwax doing sitting alone, the only sober one of them all? Was she really that aloof and detatched she couldn’t enjoy things?
She is being the Witch so you didn’t have to, just this once, her Third Thoughts told her. She is anchoring you to give you freedom to feel and shouldering the burden so you could feel the giddy release of putting down responsibility.She is showing you how to make this work.
It was a sudden rush of surprised emotion that made her throat tighten almost against her will. No one would say anything, no one would make a big deal about it but they would all know what Granny had done for them. She’d always said, with the cast iron pride of the young that witches didn’t cry but to her astonishment she could feel a tear in her eye.
She could see Granny Weatherwax looking at her and remembered Nanny Ogg telling her ‘Human being first, Witch second; hard to remember easy to do and thought, no... no, being a witch wasn’t about being cold and hard, it was the opposite of that for all that's what it seemed like. It was having the immense compassion to take that weight of responsibility from other people so they did not have to bear the burden of the hardest choices. Granny had lifted it for her, allowing her emotions to unfurl and live again just in time for her wedding and there was no gift greater than the knowledge that she didn’t have to lock away her feelings to be the best witch she could be as she had feared. She knew now she could be a witch to be proud of and an equally accomplished wife and she didn’t have to sacrifice emotions to do that. The tear that she wiped from her eye showed her that. Just one, but proof enough for love, and more than enough to support hope through a life that would be shared with the demanding vocations of a doctor and a witch.
“Aren’t you going to ask me what my brides blessing is?” the Granny Weatherwax said quietly and Tiffany turned at the door way, on the threshold of her wedding day, with stupid feathers in her hair and a barely remembered evening in her thoughts and with the very real moisture on her fingers catching the dying firelight like gold.
“No need Granny.” She said as she stepped out of the door letting her glistening teardrop finger catch the light briefly and sensing the rare genuine smile behind her. “I already know.”