I don't own these characters or profit from them.
By, Clayton Overstreet
Tiffany Aching watched as Nanny Ogg lowered herself into her grave while around her nearly everyone in Lancre burst into tears. Nanny sat back up and snarled, "Stop blubbering or I'll climb out of this casket and slap those sobs right out of you!" Everyone shut up and she grinned. Everyone had always asked themselves what they would do if Grany Weatherwax died. Nobody had ever even considered Nanny dying. She was always there and too happy and healthy to go down.
Turning to the hooded black figure next to her she said, "Am I about done?"
Death held up her hourglass. YOU ARE A DAY LATE FOR BEING LATE.
Nanny grinned and turned to Granny Waetherwax who stood to the side and glared at her. "I win." Then she waved at everyone she ever knew and flopped back into the coffin just as the scythe sliced through her body. Tiffany and the other witches saw Nanny's ghost appear next to Death, looking much younger than her actual body. Tiffany was amazed. Nanny Ogg had been a beautiful woman. And then both of them faded from sight.
Nearby a dwarf in a huge wig with no beard said, "I shall always think of you when I eat oysters, my love!"
It had been even more unusual than most witch funerals. Normally a witch or wizard had enough notice through their magic to give a few days warning to their friends and family, barrow large sums of money, and host a huge party before they died. Nanny however, had scheduled the party for after she was supposed to be dead and then kept Death waiting for a solid day. Something nobody else had ever done. Tiffany had been there when they were setting up for the party and had seen something like a small hourglass, similar to the larger one Death had, in Nanny's hand, but it had vanished.
As everyone moved forward to check that she really was dead, Tiffany walked over to Granny and asked, "What did she mean, she won?"
"A stupid bet I made when I was younger and not thinkin' proper." Granny muttered. "Can't believe that old baggage even remembered. But she's right, she won." She looked down at Tiffany. "Come on, I need help packin'."
"Packing?" Tiffany asked, but Granny was already walking away, mumbling under her breath. As they passed the Queen she reached out for a second towards Granny with her free hand. On her other the young princess Esme N.S. of Lancre watched wide eyed from under her pointy hood. Granny walked past without acknowledging her. Around them the field they were burying her in was packed with people and even Feegles. To Tiffany's relief those Feegles were from the island ina nearby lake and not the clan back at her home.
Tiffany had known Granny Weatherwax since she was nine years old… almost a decade now. Granny had taught her a lot of things… or had at least let her hang around and observe. Tiffany had given her the white cat that spent most of its time sitting in the limbs of the tree growing up through the roof of her house. Still she had never seen this strange look on Granny's face.
Agnes Nitt nodded a little sadly to them as they passed. She was a part of Granny's coven. Tiffany had always wondered what it was like to belong to a coven, but when she had asked Agnse and Perditta, the other person who lived inside the plump (Tiffany was brought up to be polite) young woman, she said that it meant staying up late to serve tea to two old woman. Agnes and Tiffany got along well because Tiffany also had a few extra voices inside her head. They were much more powerful than she had let Granny know, but she had learned to control them with Granny's help when she threw the hiver out of her head.
Nobody needed to know what got left in there when she had invited it back in. Sometimes she wondered if that had really been her decision. Some of the minds the hiver had aquired over the years had been quite devious. Like the queen who served her twelve husbands scorpion sandwiches. Still, Tiffany was pretty sure she was in control and there was nothing anybody else could do anyway. She had so many thoughts of her own that a few more hardly made any different. Except the queen had been very helpful in certain matters involving Roland, her boyfriend and the baron of the Chalk. It helped that there were no scorpions back home.
They made it to Granny's cottage. Inside Granny grabbed a sack and began filling it up. Tiffany said, "Nanny asked you to deliver a bunch of things to people, right?"
"Aye, on me way," Granny said. "I has to deliver her cook book to some ladies we know in Ahnk-Morpork. She had a copy she didn't think was suitible for printin'. The rest of it's bein' parcelled out by her kin."
Tiffany tried to imagine what kind of recipes Nanny thought unsuitable. Tiffany had lived in Nanny's house and learned some of those recipes. She hadn't stopped blushing for a month. On top of that Nanny had left her a copy of The Dictionary of Words You Can't Use In Public. Nanny had used all of them.
"What do you mean, on your way?" Tiffany asked.
"I ain't commin' back," Granny snapped. "T'ain't like I like it but I gots no choice."
"I'm a woman of me word," she said as she stuffed more things into her bag. "One day when me and Gyntha was havin' a fight she said she was goin' to be a better witch than me because I didn't do much learnin from the other witches. Wanted to do it all meself. So she got the trainin and I taught me most of what I know after takin' the best tricks from a bunch of the other witches nobody else wanted to learn from."
Tiffany understood that last bit. She had spent a lot of time learning from witches the other girls had been to afraid to hang out. And most of even her family hadn't spent much time with her grandmother. On top of that Tiffany's power mostly came from the land, something the other girls couldn't quite figure out.
"So we made a deal on who was gonna be better and the loser had to leave Lancre and not come back. We've been tryin to outdo one another since then. She done a good job of it too, you know? She always made friends when I couldn't. I made enemies like it were art. She counted me as her best friend, which after a while I gotta say is an accomplishment in itself. She could twist me round her little finger when she wanted and I had ter go along with it or I wouldna been me. She was the better midwife and I did some magic ain't nobody even tried before."
Tiffany nodded. Everyone knew how good Granny was. "So how'd she win?"
"I can't reckon how," Granny said. "But she done it. I can hold off our friend in the black robe fer a bit. I can force open the doors between the world for a while. But I can't figure out how she kept 'im at bay fer a whole day. I know wizards what can't do that!"
"So you're just going to give up?" Tiffany asked. "You never lost anything in your life."
Granny shook her head. "I lost a few things. Sometimes through me own choices girl. Keep that in mind in future when you and your young man fight. I loved once and I let it walk right past me."
Tiffany frowned. "Granny, you didn't answer my question."
Granny Weatherwax grinned, showing off her perfect teeth. "Aye. And I ain't gonna lose this time. But I still got to go."
"Well she beat me on her deathbed. And everybody saw it. Even that granddaugther of Death's."
"The girl with the white horse?" Tiffany guessed, knowing better that to question Granny about how Death got a granddaughter in the first place. That horse had caught Tiffany's eye. It reminded her of the horse that had come out of the chalk when she sent it to Death's Domain and whose image was captured in the silver charm around her neck and the small white scar on her hand. The girl had been just as intimidating and had been standing next to another young woman holding a wizard's staff.
"Aye, that'd be her right enough," Granny said. "So I got to ask you, how do you beat someone who can hold off Death for a day?"
"Hold off Death for two days?" Tiffany asked.
"Close. I got to live forever," Granny said.
Tiffany licked her lips. "And how do you do that?"
"By leavin'," Granny said and laughed.
It took her a second, but Tiffany eventually got it. Granny couldn't stay, but by leaving she would leave behind all the people who knew her. She would live forever in their hearts.
This was not as sappy and setnimental as it sounds.
Granny had spent most of her free tie hopping through the minds of every animal and some people in Lancre. Some said even the land itself. Magrat had once told Tiffany when she was at Granny's house durring one of Tiffany's visits, that everyone was afraid that one day Granny would just go into an animal and not come back. On top of that everyone knew that Granny had been bitten by vampires and somehow turned them into something that craved tea. Granny, they said, had even once put the whole kingdom to sleep for almost two decades and nobody aged the whole time.
Granny motioned and said, "Get me broom." Tiffany did as she was told, still dazed. No Granny? No Nanny Ogg? Lancre was going to be a different place. "Don't bet on it," Granny said, doing that trick where she read Tiffany's words seemingly from her mind. Tiffany handed over the broom, You the cat was on Granny's shoulder. She was wearing the Zephyr cloak Tiffany had given her years before. It billowed around her like living shadow.
"Things happen here Granny."
"Like that dragon you met last year?"
Tiffany blushed. She had thought nobody, even the Feegles, knew about that little adventure. "Yes."
"That's another good reason for me to leave. Cause you're going to be better than me and if I don't leave before that happens everybody is goin' ta know that."
"Better than you?"
"Don't give me that look young lass! You're humble, but yer thoughts ain't. I know you've thought how much older I am then ye. And you done a lot of things I'm not even sure I could, all before you was twenty. Whenj I faced the Queen she nearly got me. I 'ad to be rescued if it comes to it. You took the hiver across the threashold, somethin' nobody has ever done. You been a goddess and you kissed a god. All before you was even properly a woman yet.
"You're better than me and everyone would know it if they weren't always compairing you to me."
Tiffany wanted to deny it, but despite herself she knew Granny was right and almost swelled with pride. "But now you'll leave and we'll never really know."
"Right," Granny said. She left her "I Ate'nt Dead" sign on her bed. A nice touch for when they actually came looking for her. "Not for sure."
"Where will you go?"
"Ain't never been to Klatch. Or the other Continent." Granny said. "I never much liked flyin' but I hear in those places they could use a good witch to teach 'em a thing or three." She smiled. "What can I do 'round here anyway? I taught Agnes, two girls in one if ever I saw them, I taught the queen and made a king, I taught the first female wizard and I was Nanny Ogg's best friend, and known as the best witch ever anywhere.
"So I leave this to ye Tiffan," Granny said, using the Feegle version of Tiffany's name. "You get to watch all the edges. Not just yer own. Be the eyes that watch over the shoulders of every witch, even yerself. See if maybe you can ever really beat me even if I ain't around. Oh, and one more thing."
Tiffany was crying. Not sobbing or even puffy eyed. Tears were just streaming down her cheeks. "What's that Granny?"
"I know ye be connected to yer chalk hills, like a flint buried deep inside. Sharp and hard. But even a flint leaves the chalk eventually. It can get uncovered and then buried again. And just the same sometimes you have to leave too and not just to see what's up the mountain. Travel, see the world, and bring back the things ye learn and know that they learned a few things from you even in for'n parts." She winked. "And take the long way back so's you can see the turtle. I did and it was worth the trip."
"I will Granny," Tiffany said, her voice a little rough.
"And watch out for that baby of young widow Turnkey over in Slice. Greebo's been spendin' a lot of time over there and she's a very lonely lady since her husband died. That baby could require some special help." She threw her leg over the broomstick. For a second Tiffany thought she was going to say something else, but she just shook her head and started running. After a bit she was airborn and a bit later she was gone.
Tiffany stood by the empty cottage. The place seemed even more empty than it should. It would be days before anyone even checked. "Or it could be a bit sooner," she said to herself and grinned. Nanny wouldn't let any plan of Granny's go off without a little detail the old lady would not see coming. What she had planned would hurt her throat, but the results would be worth it.
Throwing her head back Tiffany let out a roar the likes of which no human had ever heard. She could have gone with the sabertoothed cat, but that sounded too normal. This roar came from a time when the Creator was still experimenting with a world full of different kinds of dragons and the hiver had taken control of one of the biggest and meanest things alive. They were wiped out before he had gotten on with making people.
Tiffany even shivered a bit when the echo of the roar came back off the mountains, but by then she was already running away from the cottage. People would wonder what it was, swearing it sounded like no animal they had ever heard. And in Lancre most people knew what every animal sounded like. They would find Granny's house and her sign, and for the rest of their lives they would wonder if she was really gone and if she might one day be back.