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How it was planned and how it turned out

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Part 1: How it was planned

 

Magrat lay down on the grass, only half listening to the voices of the other witches as she let the rare May sun warm her tired body. Even for a queen, carrying around a toddler was hell on your back. She stared at the blue sky and frowned when the clear view was disrupted by a frazzled black silhouette moving across the sky in big, jerky loops.

"What is that?" she asked. "Some kind of bird?"

Agnes shaded her eyes and looked up as well. "Looks more like a bat, to me."

"No," Nanny said calmly, taking the tea kettle off the fire, "it's Granny."

"As a bird or a bat?" Magrat asked.

"Neither. On her broom."

The three witches looked at each other for a moment, and then hurried to turn out the fire and move aside everything that could be broken or splashed out. Soon thereafter, Granny Weatherwax's battered broomstick took ground, skidded up to the smoking fireplace and stopped right before Granny risked getting her soles burned. She stepped off the wayward vehicle with great dignity and nodded at her colleagues.

"I see you're all here," she said. There was a challenge in that brief statement that they all recognized. Everyone was present, meaning there were four witches, and that was a problem they had still to solve. Not so long ago, Granny had been willing to step down, but no one particularly *wanted* her to. Certainly not Nanny, who knew her place in a trio and wasn't willing to exchange it to anything else, thank you very much.

"That we are," Nanny said sunnily. "We rather thought you might have brought someone along, too."

"Brought... oh," Granny said, her face in a deep scowl. "You mean another witch."

"Or two. Two would be nice. Although," Nanny added as an afterthought, "I don't know if it'd be strictly *necessary*." She glanced in Agnes's direction.

Agnes blushed. She very much resented the thought of Perdita getting her own spot in a coven. And in any case it wouldn't do any good. Neither one of them was a mother or a crone.

"I don't know who that would be," Granny snapped. "All the old ones are fools, and the new ones..." She gave a distinct snort to show what she thought of the young witches.

Neither Agnes nor Magrat said anything. They knew it was only the very thinnest of lines that stopped that snort from applying to *them*.

Nanny poured a cup of tea for herself and put in an abnormally large lump of sugar. "I suppose you're right," she said. "So no new witches, and no one is leaving." She emphasized the last part and gave Granny a meaningful glance.

"Er..." Magrat said.

All the others looked at her, and she shifted a bit, pretending to brush grass away from her arm.

"Thing is..." she said, "there's a lot for me to do nowadays. Baby things. And – well, I *am* the Queen, you know." She said that, not only because they had a tendency to forget it, but because she had a tendency to forget it too. "So there won't be much time for witchcraft. But I don't want to actually *leave*."

"Just a bit of opera singing on the side," Agnes mumbled. "Not leaving, of course."

"I see," Granny said sharply. "Have your cake and eat it too, is that what you want?"

Since it very much was, they didn't reply.

"Well, why not?" asked Nanny, sucking on her lump of sugar.

Granny glared at her. The other two settled for more standard staring.

"It's rather like our Shawn," Nanny explained. "He's a palace guard. And he's *always* a palace guard, even if he's not guarding the palace. It's quite ordinary for him not to guard the palace. He has holidays and such. I would like having a holiday."

"We had a holiday the other year," Granny said. "Going to Genua."

"That was work," Nanny said firmly. "Don't give me that look, Esme. You can't tell me almost getting killed and having things turn into pumpkins and all that wasn't work. If there are four of us, then one of us can go on holidays, or the girls can do all that Queening and opera singing. It's called pursuing your Hoppies. It'll be good for them."

Magrat opened her mouth to protest that being the Queen was *quite* different from singing opera and in *no* way could be called pursuing a Hoppy, but she shut it again.

"Don't you teach them any bad habits," Granny said. "It is not only unladylike to pursue things, it's un*witch*like."

Nanny waved that complaint away. "If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Whoever goes on holiday, the others can go on, and we'll still be maiden, mother and... that other one. Well, we will if Agnes doesn't get herself a fella."

Agnes's large face slowly became beet red at the callous remark. Splotches of red developed on her neck and what was visible of her bosom.

"What if I do get a fella?" she asked, stung at the thought that she couldn't get one if she wanted. That young vampire had been quite taken with her, after all. Granted, he had been an evil fiend, but she couldn't quite rid herself (and Perdita) of the thought that even though you had to turn them down, evil fiends were *still* pretty cool admirers to have.

The fact that she was thinking the word "cool" meant Perdita was getting to her more than she would like.

"You're getting a fella?" Nanny asked, brightening up. "Well, I'm sure that will be *very* good for you!"

"Do control yourself, Gytha," Granny said sharply. "No one is getting... involved with anyone. Except for Magrat, who already is." Her tone of voice made it very clear that this was an unfortunate situation for which she would pity Magrat if she was of the disposition to pity anyone, which she was not. Her eyes narrowed as she watched her old friend. "You haven't met that dwarf lately, have you?"

"Which dwarf?" Nanny asked innocently.

"*That* dwarf, or any other for that matter if they are the kind who would drink from your boot. And you keep Agnes away from those boot-drinkers too, or *need* I remind you what *you* will be if she's not the maiden?"

She did not. Nanny could take the idea of having to be the crone for a little while if one of the others went on holiday, but being her forever was another thing entirely, and somber enough a thought to make her shut her mouth for the time being.

"Now," said Granny, thinking of how fabulous it would be to go home and borrow something, and get away from the tiresome company of other witches, "I don't see the point of this holiday thing, but if you all want it, I suppose it's not such a bad idea. Give the girls some time for themselves – as long as they're not pursuing anything, I can't see the harm."

"Fabulous!" Nanny said. "Dibs on first! I'll go somewhere where they have those banana dakrys."

 

Part 2: How it turned out

Shawn Ogg straightened up the moment he saw his mother's broomstick land, which was a few seconds before he also saw the Queen. He fumbled with his helmet for a moment, but managed to put it on, set it straight and salute before the four women had come up to him.

"Hello, mum," he said when they did. It occurred to him that perhaps this wasn't the most polite greeting when there was a Queen present, and he tried to correct himself: "And your Majesty. And..." Suddenly he remembered what he was supposed to tell the Queen. "Your Majesty! I'm meant to send you to the grand hall!"

"I'm not the Majesty today, Shawn," Magrat told him. "Verence knows that."

Shawn managed to collect his thoughts into, "Huh?"

"It's not Magrat's day off," Granny told him rather rudely. "It's Agnes's. She's an opera singer today."

Shawn stared at Agnes as if he expected her to grow beads and sequins, but she was the same as always, though her hair was unruly from the travel and her black dress torn near one fat ankle.

"You know," she said helpfully. "Opera? La-la-la-la-LA!"

CRASH!

Shawn looked slowly from the broken window to the witches. "That's expensive glass, that is," he said. And her Majesty has to be her Majesty, because there's a delegation from Überwald in the grand hall, and they've been asking for the Queen."

Magrat sighed. "Oh, blast. I suppose I have to go." She handed her witch hat over to Agnes and started walking towards the hall.

"Quite right," Granny said, walking past her and up the stairs. Considering what the last delegation from Überwald had been like, she suspected that the sooner they were chucked out, the better. And it certainly wasn't something you'd want Magrat Garlick to try and do on her own.

Nanny had caught on right away and was a few steps behind Granny. Agnes handed the witch hat over to Shawn – she still felt wearing one made her look like a cone of liquorice ice cream – and hurried after them. It was Magrat who took the longest, and she had to run up the last bit of the stairs to catch up with the other witches.

"It's very rude to leave a Queen behind, you know," she said.

"No need to worry," Granny said, barely throwing her a glance, her eyes focused on the hunching figures in front of her. "It's only Igors."

"Your Majethty," the Igor in front lisped, bowing his hunched back a bit further. "Mithtretheth. Pleathed to meet you."

"Oh!" Magrat said. Seeing so many Igors at once made her think of vampires, and she finally realized why the others had been in such a hurry. "Hello, Igor. Pleased to meet you too. How can I help you?"

"We bring tributeth to Lancre," Igor said, and at a gesture from him all the other Igors brought forth little boxes and opened them.

"Tributes?" Magrat said, rather curious. She stepped up to have a look in one of the boxes, and blanched when she saw what was in it. "Oh. Uh... that's very... kind, I'm sure."

Nanny was also peeking into a box. "Will you look at the size of..."

"Gytha!" Granny said sharply.

"All I'm saying is, it must have belonged to a very healthy man."

"Oh, very healthy," Igor assured her. "Up until he wath cruthed by rockth. We managed to thave a few bitth."

"All the *best* bits, it seems," Nanny said, still fascinated by the object in the box. Granny gave it one glance and then looked away, staring instead at the one nearby, where a pair of large, sinewy hands were lying on a bed of ice. She wondered if the contents of both boxes had come from the same person, and then she scowled at herself for the thought. She had obviously spent too much time around Gytha.

"You can have it, if you like," Magrat offered, her voice half-choked with horror.

"Acthually," the front Igor said when the other Igors were starting to look worried and murmured to each other, "they're meant to be put together. It'th your tribute, and of courthe you can do what you want with it, but we did thend enough for a whole body. It'th a do-it-yourthelf manthervant, your Majethty."

"I dare say he'd be a women servant as well," Nanny said cheerfully.

"Gytha," Granny said, "do I have to take you away from that box with *force*?"

"Oh," Magrat said, trying not to look into any of the boxes, which was rather hard seeing how they were everywhere. "I see... You mean... put him together?"

"Thort of, your Majethty," Igor said, and he continued with rising eagerness: "You thee, we can thow the partth together, that'th eathy, we do it to ourthelveth all the time, but to give him life we need a thpark. Like lightning, or magic. And thinthe we knew that the Queen of Lancre ith a witch..."

"Oh," Magrat said again.

Granny looked at Nanny. Nanny still looked at the box. Granny closed the box, disregarding the fact that the Igor holding it had his fingers between the box and the lid, and pulled Nanny away. The Igor in question gave a muffled groan.

Nanny finally looked back at Granny.

Agnes looked at both of them, wondering if they were really going to do that icky thing the Igors seemed to want them to. If so, she was dead set on being in on it. They weren't performing any weird rituals without her – if she let them do that, she'd never hear the end of it. It'd be another thing they had in common, another experience she had missed out on.

"But wouldn't that be black magic?" Magrat asked faintly.

"Now, now, Magrat, don't be rude," Nanny said, taking Magrat under the arm. "We'll help you out. You could use a good manservant."

All the Igors, who had been looking quite crestfallen, brightened up at once. They started moving with the speed of ants bringing home leftovers from a picnic, carrying things this was and that. Needles glimmered in the air, tongs and spools of thread were thrown into the mess of things and empty boxes carried out, and before long, a full-bodied, lifeless man was lying on the floor.

Granny looked down, and then promptly looked up again. "Not bad."

"Oh, wow," Agnes said.

"Close your eyes, Agnes!"

Granny's voice permitted no argument, but Agnes peeked out between half-shut eyelids. "Oh, wow."

"That's what I call good workmanship," Nanny chuckled.

"Thank you tho much," the front Igor beamed. "It'th much eathier when you're not working on yourthelf. Now, if you pleathe..."

The witches stepped up. Neither one of them was too sure of how to do something like this, but they figured any kind of try was a good try. The man was already dead, it wasn't like they could harm him any further.

"All right," Granny said. "Give it what you've got."

There was no spark, as such, or any lightning. There was just three witches and a queen going slightly red, breaking into sweats, starting to pant. Finally, they broke loose.

"Did it work?" Agnes asked.

The man on the floor very slowly turned his head and opened his eyes. And then he winked at her.

"Uh..." she said. "I think I'll go back to being on holiday now. I have a hoppy to pursue."

"Now, don't be rude," Nanny reproached her. "The manservant belongs to Magrat. You'll have to find a hoppy of your own."

"Well," Magrat said, staring at the manservant who was beginning to discover that he could sit up. "I suppose... Verence... would have to be asked... what I should do with him."

She smiled at the Igors.

"Thank you *so* much for the gift. I'll talk to Verence now."

"I'll go with you!" Nanny said, following Magrat down the stairs.

"Honestly!" Granny protested, dragging Agnes with her out of the room.

And so they went to find the king: maiden, mother, crone – and a sulking opera singer.