** This is a bit of fun I whipped up, short and sweet in 4 chapters. There will be naughtiness. There will be wholesome, moral violence. Tempers will be lost in unexpected places. Characters will act…strangely. We all do sometimes, especially when male-female relations are involved. So relax and have fun with the story.**
Disclaimer: DW etc. is Terry Pratchett's brilliant creation. Musical references courtesy of the Stray Cats and whatever record label owns their songs.
1. Girls Night Out
Nanny Ogg, the second most powerful witch in the rural kingdom of Lancre, stood with a plate of choicest giblets on the doorstep of her cottage. She looked a lot like a billiard ball on legs, short, round, dressed in black with just the hint of red underthings peeking out from under the hems. Normally, she had a wide, sloppy grin on her face.
Giblets should have done the trick. The last time she set out a steaming plate of stench-ridden pig innerds, her cat Greebo had come flying out from wherever he'd been hiding himself. He was a gray cat, scarred, menacing, greedy, violent. In Lancre cat society, he was the most dominant of the dominant males. The fruit of his feline loins sprayed, sniffed and scavenged throughout the kingdom.
Nanny set the plate in the cobblestone path. A fox wandered up.
"Shoo!" she scolded.
The fox sat back on its haunches. It was the clearest sign Nanny could have got. If Greebo was anywhere within smelling distance, the fox wouldn't have had the gall to sit down in front of what was obviously Greebo's supper. War would have ensued. Greebo was missing part of an ear and was laced with battle scars but it was well known in the animal world that his opponents normally got worse.
The fox flicked its tail and looked hungrily at the plate.
Nanny scratched the hairs on her chin. Six weeks. Greebo had been gone six weeks. That wasn't like him. It couldn't possibly have anything to do with that innocent little potion he'd been helping her experiment with…
Her mouth dropped open.
The fox lowered his nose to the plate.
Nanny sprinted to get her broom and started composing in her head how to explain this to Lancre's first most powerful witch.
Who wasn't going to like this one bit.
The afternoon sun slanted in through the windows of the Slightly Pink Drawing Room at the Ramkin-Vimes house in Ankh-Morpork. Tea was in progress. And a polite argument between a chestnut-haired woman with a friendly face and powerful hands, and the unselfconsciously elegant, light-eyed woman beside her. She was smiling like a demon.
"Come on, Sybil."
"Oh, I don't know."
"It'll be fun."
"I'd feel bad leaving Sam here by himself."
"He's a grown man. He can amuse himself alone for one night. Come on. You'll have a great time."
Lady Sybil, wife of Watch Commander Sir Samuel Vimes, dropped another sugar cube in her tea, while Hanna Stein, seamstress under contract to the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, pointed an embossed silver spoon at her and said:
"When was the last time you had a girls night out?"
Sybil considered this. She didn't have very many girlfriends, being the type more comfortable with dragons. It wasn't that she was shy; she was just one of those people who, when confronted with a gaggle of stylish ladies of her social class, wished she didn't take up so much space.
"We wouldn't know anyone else there," she said.
"I can ask Angua to come. And Cheery. How about that?"
"Would they come?"
"Sure. Your husband will change their shift if you ask, won't he?"
Sybil shook her head. "I can't interfere in Watch business."
"Then I'll ask." Hanna straightened up in her chair. "I'll tell him the Patrician ordered it."
"Why would the Patrician order him to change their shifts?"
"Commander Vimes won't go for that?"
Sybil sighed. The kind of evening Hanna proposed was not something she normally did. As far as she'd been told, it would start in some sort of cellar club, somewhere that sounded rather sooty and dark and malodorous when full of people. There was apparently a small stage. A week ago, a new act had come that was electrifying the ladies of Ankh-Morpork. Sybil was skeptical and intrigued. At the last minute, she decided which way to swing.
"Oh, all right," she said.
Hanna squealed and bounced in her chair.
"But only if Angua and Cheery come with us. I'll ask Sam."
"You won't regret it, Sybil. I heard this lad has broken hearts from here to Genua. I heard…" Hanna looked around as if she expected someone to be listening in. She lowered her voice. "I heard there's in-sewer-ants on his hips for half a million dollars."
The greatest witch on the Disc was named Granny Weatherwax. She was known for many character traits, but there were two that came full into play as she sat in her cottage rocking chair and listened to Nanny Ogg pour out her problems.
First, Granny was bad tempered on principle.
Second, she had her own ideas about propriety and morals.
These were light years away from the ideas of Nanny Ogg. This became more obvious the longer Nanny talked.
"…and so's I thought, I'll just give it a try. Why not? It ain't right that Mrs. Huggins down Fortner way doesn't find her Ralph as appealin' as she used to, I mean, that's a legitimate witchin' problem that I can solve, ain't it? And a few months ago, Mamie Laws said the same thing, said her Martin was boring her to death. And Felicity Scooner, she's had a head ache for three years. Said her George is about as excitin' as a dry sponge. Now, I ask you, as a witch, would you just sit there and let those fine women suffer? Or would you find a way to get their husbands to show a little fire?"
Granny rocked back and forth, a frown cemented on her face, her arms folded. Nanny squirmed a little in her seat.
"All right, it weren't the best idea using Greebo. But our Jason's had lots to do at the smithy and our Shawn, he's got the marital arts course going up at the castle and, well, there weren't nobody else around. It was supposed to be temporary, believe me, Esme. Get Greebo into human shape again like we did that one time, you remember, don't you? And then test out the potion on him. If it'd make him desirable to women, it'd work for Mamie Laws' husband, right? Logic. Simple as pie. There weren't no way anything was going to go wrong."
Granny looked like a cigar store Indian, silent and watchful.
"How was I to know Greebo'd get it into his head to drink up the whole bottle? He did it when I wasn't lookin', and believe me, he's going to get the hiding of his life when I get a hold of him. There's no tellin' what mischief he'll be up to." Nanny's face softened. "The poor thing's far from home, I can tell you that. You feel how relaxed the animals are?"
"A fox ate his giblets, Esme. That means Greebo's not even in the kingdom." Nanny paused for dramatic effect. "We got to find him before his…um…" Her gaze slid away from Granny toward the hearth.
"Is there somethin' you ain't told me, Gytha Ogg?"
Nanny was still squirming. The razor glare of Granny forced her to speak. "Well, this potion, see, I'm guessin' it's had an effect on Greebo's morphic field. If he's still in human form after six weeks, well, I reckon there might be some surprising changes to his…er…"
Granny's eyes narrowed.
"…his…er…" Nanny closed her eyes. "Anatomy."
"Anatomy," said Granny.
"Yes, Esme." Nanny couldn't hold it in any longer. She broke out into a grin. "Anatomy."
In some respects, Hanna Stein was the most powerful woman in Ankh-Morpork. She was the only woman who could casually mention something to the Patrician, who would not so casually mention it to someone else, causing things in the city to happen, for better or worse. She didn't normally use this power, but Bongo, owner of Bongo's Song Pit, didn't know that. Without being asked, he put Hanna, Sybil, Angua and Cheery Littlebottom right up front and center, off the stage. Prime spots.
It was a warm summer night, the stench of the Ankh wafting through the air and mingling with the Song Pit's own natural odours, which included alcohol, sweat and a great deal of perfume. Ninety percent of the people packed into the cellar were women. Young women, old women, women who looked like respectable mothers of four, women who weren't wearing corsets, women who were wearing only corsets, stockings and garters.
Sybil was bundled up in the type of underthings that kept everything from wobbling, and she wore a pleasant dark blue velvet gown and flat heeled shoes. She could have been at a social event at the Palace. Watch Sergeant Angua, werewolf, scowled at the stage, her nose up, her ash blonde hair loose down her back. She hadn't bothered to dress up. She'd heard about the show and had her doubts. The dwarf Cheery Littlebottom was in chain mail, high heels, and had on glittering golden lipstick. One could say she was on the prowl. Her boyfriend had been getting on her nerves lately. Hanna knew this because Cheery's boyfriend happened to be Rufus Drumknott, the Patrician's head clerk, who'd been slinking around the Palace lately with a distressed look on his face.
For the record, Hanna wore red. It was a dress she'd modelled for the Patrician in private, after which he'd firmly forbidden her to ever wear it again. In public. It draped to the floor, granted, but bits of it were cut out in strategic places so that the dress seemed to suggest the illusion of nothing underneath. Which wasn't really an illusion. Hanna didn't have anything on underneath.
All four women held cocktails in their hands. Umbrellas, bits of pineapple and glittering paper sprouted from the cups. Sybil looked around.
"Why isn't there any place to sit?"
"I heard you won't be wanting to sit when this gets started," said Hanna.
Cheery extricated a cocktail straw from her beard. "Some of the Watch girls were here a few nights ago. They said it's the best show they've ever seen."
Angua was still sniffing the air. Something wasn't right…
The lights dimmed a little. A few guys in black walked onto the stage and started tuning up their instruments, a guitar, a bass, drums.
There were whistles from the audience. Stomping of feet. A scream, taken up by someone else, spreading.
"Something's not right," said Angua, but nobody heard her. The excitement raced through the air like something tangible, a force that gripped every woman and injected her with something that felt like distilled adrenalin.
Hanna was practically hopping already. "This'll be great!" she called.
Sybil leaned down.
"This is great!"
Clapping started up. A rhythmic beat, hundreds of hands slapping together in unison. Cheery set her cup aside and joined in. Sybil was sweating in unpleasant places.
"It's certainly hot in here," she said.
"What?" called Hanna, who was clapping now too.
The musicians on stage finished tuning. A few moments later, Bongo, a vampire in a goatee and black beret, approached a long, metallic instrument that looked like a fireplace poker upright on a stand. There was a kind of small box on the top end that held a tiny demon. When Bongo spoke into the box, the demon magnified his voice out over the applause.
"All right, cool cats, I can see you flipping already."
Bongo grinned, his fangs gleaming in the spotlights. He held out a hand, flapping it in a joking attempt to fan the audience, to cool them down.
"The time has come vunce again to present to you the newest kick on the Disc. And there's something I have to tell you, vord from the bird." He smiled slyly. "The daddy's got some new tricks up his sleeve."
The screams pitched higher.
"All I ask is that you hep cats don't tear the roof down. Y'hip?"
Cheery and Hanna were clutching each other and jumping up and down in unison. Sybil was suppressing the urge to start screaming along with everybody else. Angua's gaze kept shifting from the audience to the stage, her eyes wide.
Bongo snapped his fingers. "So let me hear a varm Song Pit velcome for…" he stretched an arm toward the wings, "…Greebo and the Tomcats!"
The lights flashed off, a spotlight popped onto the stage and caught in its glow a man. He strode onto the stage with a tambourine in his hand. He stopped in front of the microphone and looked directly at Sybil through a narrow green eye that, unlike its twin, was not covered by an eye patch.
He winked at her.
The screams started at the back of the club and crashed against the stage like a tsunami, picking up Sybil and Hanna and Cheery and even Angua. Their mouths were open. Sound was coming out.
Greebo started snapping his fingers, one of his black leather boots tapping at the end of a leg of his tight black leather trousers. Very tight leather, Sybil noticed, with an accompanying jump in her body temperature. He wasn't wearing a shirt, just an open black leather vest over what Cheery noticed was a chest of pure, hard muscle dusted with black hair. He wore a small bell around his neck tied off with black ribbon. A scar slashed across his face and his hair was tousled, like he hadn't bothered to comb it. Hanna was transfixed by the scar and the hair. This was obviously a man who didn't spend his nights reading quarterly budget reports.
"Roooooowwwwrrrrr, good evening, ladies!" crooned Greebo.
Somebody pushed Angua aside and tried to climb onto the stage, but one of Bongo's men hooked her around the waist and hauled her down.
"Arrrrrrrre you rrrready?" Greebo breathed into the microphone. He had a voice like melted chocolate.
The audience screamed.
"Arrrrrre you rrrready?"
The howl from the ladies was deafening.
Maybe it was her perspective at the foot of the stage, but Sybil was entranced by his trousers. Black leather. Sam never wore black leather. Even if he did, well, Sybil was afraid to admit he wouldn't look half as good. It didn't seem the right kind of thing to think about her husband, but there it was, staring at her in two long, slender, compact, muscular legs that led up to a bulging…um…
She glanced at Hanna. The seamstress had a concentrated "notice me" look on her face. If she stared hard enough, maybe he'd look at her.
From somewhere, Cheery had found a milk crate that she was now standing on. Bouncing on, to be more precise. She was now at height level with Angua, who was breathing hard, her head tossed back, howling with everyone else. Whatever she'd been worried about, she'd forgotten it already.
The guitar, bass and drums started up the song to the beat Greebo set with his snapping fingers and tapping boot. The music sounded a lot like Music with Rocks On. Once it's introduced into the world, no art form ever really goes away. Music With Rocks On wasn't as popular as it was a few years back but it was still heard at the underground clubs. The Tomcats were better than most of the Music with Rocks On bands of yore. The guitar whined, the cymbals clanged, the bass thumped.
Greebo crooned so softly that at first, Sybil could only make out the words "fence" and "rent" and "strut" and "tail."
Then he got louder, the tambourine smacking his hip.
"Stray cat strut, I'm a—"
"—ladies' cat," sang the Tomcats.
"I'm a feline Casanunda--"
The screaming jumped several decibel levels because Greebo had accented the "Hey" after his mention of the Disc's second greatest lover with a forward-motion pelvic thrust. Sybil almost fainted. Hanna gripped the stage like she intended to climb up and wrap herself around his legs.
Cheery's arms were stretched out, ready to press Greebo to her armoured bosom right then and there. She couldn't imagine her boyfriend moving like that. Not Drumknott. His hips probably didn't even do that.
Angua was dancing, shaking to the beat, flailing her hair wildly. She recognized animal magnetism when she saw it, and it energized her. Captain Carrot, her boyfriend, always polite, doing everything by the book, he didn't know what it was to be dangerous.
Greebo was still singing.
"I don't bother chasin' mice around… I slink down the alley lookin' for a fight, howlin' to the moonlight on a hot summer night…"
His hips moved all the time now, in concert with his shoulders and the tambourine. He was tossing himself around, showing off his body. It was the kind of raw masculinity that Hanna had never seen in the cognitive machine she was with at the Palace. Vetinari, man of intellect.
Hysteria broke out in the Song Pit. The crowd surged forward, pressing Sybil, Hanna, Cheery and Angua against the stage. The choice was to stay there and get crushed or to go up to the footlights by him.
Greebo obviously noticed what was going on. At a break in the lyrics, he slithered the tambourine over his arm and held his hands out to the four like he was offering himself to them. They practically fought each other to be the first to be helped by those hands. That sly smile, those green-yellow eyes, those hips…
**Coming up: We've got the fangirls here. The title of the story promised you the men who love them…**