In The Bleak Mid-Winter - 1

Fan-fic revisiting a minor character from Hogfather and set in Borogravia (post Monstrous Regiment)


AND WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR HOGSWATCH, SMALL HUMAN?

Mr Crumley turned in horror.

In front of – well, he had to think of it as the usurping Hogfather – was a small child of indeterminate sex who seemed to be mostly woollen bobble hat.

Mr Crumley knew how it was supposed to go. It was supposed to go like this: the child was always struck dumb and the attendant mother would lean forward and catch the Hogfather's eye and say very pointedly, in that voice adults use when they're conspiring against children: 'You want a Baby Tinkler Doll, don't you, Doreen? And the Just Like Mummy Cookery Set you've got in the window. And the Cut-Out Kitchen Range Book. And what do you say?'

And the stunned child would murmur ''nk you' and get given a balloon or an orange.

This time, though, it didn't work like that.

Mother got as far as 'You want a—'

WHY ARE YOUR HANDS ON BITS OF STRING, CHILD?

The child looked down the length of its arms to the dangling mittens affixed to its sleeves. It held them up for inspection.

'Glubs,' it said.

I SEE. VERY PRACTICAL.

'Are you weal?' said the bobble hat.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? The bobble hat sniggered.

'I saw your piggie do a wee!' it said, and implicit in the tone was the suggestion that this was unlikely to be dethroned as the most enthralling thing the bobble hat had ever seen.

OH. ER . . . GOOD.

'It had a gwate big—'

WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR HOGSWATCH? said the Hogfather hurriedly.

Mother took her economic cue again, and said briskly: 'She wants a—'

The Hogfather snapped his fingers impatiently. The mother's mouth slammed shut.

The child seemed to sense that here was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and spoke quickly. 'I wanta narmy. Anna big castle wif pointy bits,' said the child. 'Anna swored.'

WHAT DO YOU SAY? prompted the Hogfather.

'A big swored?' said the child, after a pause for deep cogitation.

THAT'S RIGHT.

Uncle Heavy nudged the Hogfather.

'They're supposed to thank you,' he said.

ARE YOU SURE? PEOPLE DON'T, NORMALLY.

'I meant they thank the Hogfather,' Albert hissed. 'Which is you, right?'

YES, OF COURSE. AHEM. YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO SAY THANK YOU.

''nk you.'

AND BE GOOD. THIS IS PART OF THE ARRANGEMENT.

''es.'

THEN WE HAVE A CONTRACT. The Hogfather reached into his sack and produced—

—a very large model castle with, as correctly interpreted, pointy blue cone roofs on turrets suitable for princesses to be locked in—

—a box of several hundred assorted knights and warriors—

—and a sword. It was four feet long and glinted along the blade.

The mother took a deep breath.

'You can't give her that!' she screamed. 'It's not safe!'

IT'S A SWORD, said the Hogfather. THEY'RE NOT MEANT TO BE SAFE.

'She's a child!' shouted Crumley.

IT'S EDUCATIONAL.

'What if she cuts herself?'

THAT WILL BE AN IMPORTANT LESSON.

Hogfather - Sir Terry Pratchett


Private Jones, Known as Doreen to her family and Jonah to her comrades, shivered, as she stood on the ramparts of the castle wall. It was Hogswatch night, and she had drawn a short straw, and was standing guard on the night that most of her comrades were feasting and carousing. Borogravia had once eschewed such celebrations as they were called abominations, but since the visitation of the Duchess, things had changed. Not so many people worshipped Nuggan now. There were a few old folk who still used his name in oaths and observed some of the simpler abominations. Or felt guilty eating root vegetables, but preferred guilt on a full stomach, over hungry piousness.

The visitation of the Duchess was a bit of a mystery. Borogravia had been fighting all its neighbours, and even Ankh-Morpork got involved, after the business with the clacks towers and the trunk road. Then the ruler of the country (who might have been dead (1) and might be a goddess (2) ) had manifested. As with most occasions when a deity pops by for a visit, the accounts of the event were somewhat confused.

But it had changed the world. At least the war-torn, wintry part that was Borogravia.

They had stopped fighting, at least for a while, which many politicians in the area considered to be a miracle.

And Prince Heinrich had accepted, for now, that Borogravia will not accept him as it's rightful leader, and lets General Froc and other senior officers rule by committee.

But the greatest change in Doreen's eyes was that women were allowed to join the army.

As a child, she had listened to tales from her father and his friends, all ex-soldiers, who had lived lives of daring deeds and wild adventures with good company in their youth. She had played with toy soldiers, commanding them to defend or assault the castle she had been given by the Hogfather. In the street games with the other children in the neighbourhood, she tended to be the captain of her side, usually ending up as "king of the castle". But whilst she liked to conquer, she was never a smug winner or a sore loser. As they grew up and her female friends started reaching puberty and realising they were indeed female, and the boys eventually started realising it too, Doreen still preferred to think of the boys as comrades rather than potential suitors.

Her mother despaired of ever turning her into a lady but would have been horrified if she had known of her deepest dream of being a real soldier, in an army.

But whilst there were some female warriors, they tended to be lonely heroines, and the countries that did have female army soldiers generally didn't want an Ankh-Morpork girl in the ranks of an Impi. And the Klatchian Foreign Legion were supposed to be open to recruits from any country, especially those looking to forget or be forgotten, but still looked askance at women wishing to join.

Her family wasn't poor, but didn't have the connections to get her into a military academy. Her parents definitely couldn't afford the fees for the Assassin's guild school and she wasn't sure she was interested in being in the watch. Though, she had been tempted after the Leshp incident, when the stories about Carrot's peace-keepers started to circulate. Though that was a situation unlikely to repeat soon.

So when The Times began reporting on the last detail of female recruits in Borogravia, lead by an officer nick-named the Tiger, fearlessly fighting off the cream of the Zlobenian military, she had devoured every issue. And made a plan…


(1) Nobody would admit she might be dead, as that would have triggered the coronation of the next person in line, Prince Heinrich,(unfortunately) of Zlobenia. However, after seventy years of "being in Mourning" for her Husband, who died a week after they got married, people began to ask questions

(2) People took to praying to her as "the Little Mother". Belief has power.


I am aiming to tell the story of how a young girl who dreams of becoming a soldier ends up leaving Ankh-Morpork and ends up in Borogravia. Chapter 2 is the story of how she starts to achieve her aim (though it has already been taken over by a previously unnamed character from Monstrous Regiment)