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Witch of the Highlands
The old woman turned and smiled. She was a witch, and today was not her day. She wore a black pointed hat like most witches did, and she had a small white cat rubbing against her legs. Her black cloak covered up her lithe form. Unlike all the witches in fairy tales, she did not have warts and had perfect teeth. She had tried every way of changing that. She ate a large piece of candy every night before she went to bed, but still her teeth were white and lined up very nicely. The warts were easy, because she could just call down to the costume store and buy their really expensive natural looking wart kit, which gave you the warts and also a special type of glue that let them stay on your face longer. No one would believe that she was a witch is they saw her without her warts on, they would just think that she was a typical old lady.
Her name was Nanny Gripes, and she was most definitely a witch. She lived on the highlands of the Lancer kingdom in a small hut in the deepest part of the woods. She had a real broomstick made by the dwarfs, and her old candlestick always burnt brightly on her mantel piece. The people that lived in surrounding villages were all scared of her, but nevertheless always came to her when they had problems. The same person who would throw stones at her in the street would the next day come to her for treatment of some small ailment. Nanny was used to this life, and was quite content with it. She had a reputation as the greatest witch of Lancer, and even though most people wouldn’t admit it, they looked up to her in a sort of way.
Today was different. Today was the day the new duke came to Lancer. Their friendly old duke had died suddenly and without an heir, so they quickly went out in search of a new one. Even though this duke was said to be cruel and harsh, it was the only one the village people could find. Like everyone else in Lancer, Nanny turned up to get a look at the new duke. Everyone had to, or else how where you supposed to gossip about him? As the duke took his stand at the top of the castle, a hush fell over the crowd. He was shorter than they had expected, and his hair was short and starting to turn grey. He picked up his small cone shaped device and spoke into it.
“My dear citizens, my name in Duke Dixon, but you may all call me Duke. I am here to tell you all that there is a new duke in town…me. I will not be the same as that sentimental and foolish duke you had before who let you all run wild, (there had not been a single mishap in Lancer for as long as anyone can remember, even Nanny could not remember a time when something went wrong) and I have made up some new rules for you all to follow. Any disobeying of the rules will result in punishment, something along the lines of killing or drowning, but it is all relevant. Those who break major rules will receive harsher punishments than even that. Do not let this discourage you, for we will all have a jolly good time together, as long as you treat me the way you should. The new rules are hung up all around town, so you all have a chance to study them. And you better study them, for there will be a test!”
The people standing in the square were horrified by this speech, and when they were dismissed, many of them just stood there stock-still. Nanny was one of the first to leave, knowing that there was an unwritten rule between dukes and witches, which was I’ll leave you alone as long as you don’t turn me into something nasty. Even so Nanny went over to check out the new rules, just so she could comment on how ridiculous they were at her knitting club that evening. She walked over to the nearest notice pole where many people were already gathered around, but walked away from as soon as they saw Nanny coming. Nanny noticed that they all had a sort of blank expression on their faces, and wondered what they had seen.
The sign was in large bolded letters, and was read like this:
A NEW DUKE IS IN TOWN
No going out after dark, which is 7pm
Women should not be able to read or write
All vegetables must be first sent to the duke’s palace for inspection
Children cannot cry after 8pm
The ridiculous list went on and on, and Nanny’s frown kept deepening with every one she read. But finally, when she got near the bottom, her eyes flashed red and smoke should have been coming out of her ears.
37. No witches of any kind are allowed to live within the region of Lancer, punishable by
The people standing around watching Nanny said later that anything within one meter of Nanny burnt up from her anger at this new development. She then stalked off back to her cottage without turning anyone into a toad, which the villagers thought was very considerate of her.
That night, Nanny paced up and down her living room, waiting for that inevitable knock at her front door. Finally she heard a nervous tapping, and a small cry of “Nanny? The duke…wishes to see you” From the voice Nanny could tell it was Armand for whom she had set his arm the previous week after a freak accident with a tree. Nanny counted to 10 in her head to make him worry, and then opened the door a crack which made a shrill screeching noise. She had to pay extra for that. Armand nervously made his way into the small cottage and say the silhouette of Nanny sitting in her rocking chair by the fire. “Nanny?” Armand asked nervously. Nanny stood up and turned around to face him.
“Well Armand, how is your arm doing? I see it is well enough to hold a slip of paper. Now I wonder that it says on the little slip of paper.” Before Armand had a chance to shield it, Nanny grabbed it out of his hands. It went something like this:
The old hag must be brought to the castle for questioning. No exceptions.
Armand quickly turned so he wouldn’t be exploded into a million pieces, but when he turned around, he saw that Nanny was smiley. Sadly, that was more unnerving than if she would have been throwing a tantrum.
“Dear Armand, it is so good of you to bring Dixon’s letter to me.” Armand flinched at the sound of Nanny calling Duke by his first name. “I am sure that you will find no resistance from, how did he put it? Oh right, a hag. Well, no use keeping Dixon waiting. Lead the way Armand.” Hesitantly Armand turned around, and led Nanny out of her cottage.
It was a long walk to Duke’s palace, and Nanny had just enough time to get her thoughts in order. The whole way Nanny was giving Armand last orders for what to do with her belongings
“Don’t forget You, he needs to be fed every day, and he likes the goat milk from Precious. And don’t forget to water my plants. There will be a new witch coming around soon, so the cottage needs to be kept nice for her. I will not be remembered as the witch who let her plants die.”
After Armand’s head was spinning with all the details of taking care of a witches’ cottage, they reached Duke’s castle. The guards at the front door were brought there by Duke himself, and they did not hesitate to grab Nanny by the arm and yank her before Duke.
“Hello Witch. For that’s what you are correct? The warts give it all away, as does the pointed black hat. You have read the sign with new rules, have you not?”
“Yes,” Nanny replied coldly, “I especially liked the one about dogs not being able to relieve themselves on the ground, I have always hated that.”
“Of course. But you did also notice the one where it says no witches are allowed? Punishable by death?”
“Oh yes, of course, I will be sure to tell any other witches I see to steer clear of this area. They could get in big trouble.”
“But you yourself are a witch, are you not?”
“Yes, you don’t even know how much I paid for the warts.”
“Quite. So then this rule then also applies to you?”
“Then why have you not packed up and left?”
At this Nanny’s eyes narrowed, and she was ready for the fight. “You know, Dixon, everyone needs witches. People don’t admit it most of the time, but they do, oh yes. Who do you call when you have some ailment that is troubling you? Or you think your child needs some strict talking to? Who brings you into the world, and gives you the Ceremony of the Dead when you finally leave this world. You wouldn’t understand, but the people here, they need witches. Witches are the doctors, nurses, midwives, councilors, and law keepers of all the villages in Lancer. They are respected even though they are treated like hags. People need witches to survive.” Nanny sucked in a long breath, and glared Duke in the eye. Duke was momentarily still, but then screeched at his guards like a little kid having a tantrum.
“Guards! Tie her hands and throw her into Lancer River! She must die as all witches should die, at the hands of the water gods. Take her away!”
The guards took a firm hold on Nanny’s arms, and were surprised to find no resistance. Nanny stared at Duke, and said in a threatening voice, “You will regret this. Once you kill a witch, the others will ban together, and they will come and find you. Even though they can’t agree what type of wart is best, they will agree on this one thing. If you kill a witch, you will be chased the rest of your days, no matter how short they are.”
With that, the guards dragged Nanny out of the room, and brought her to Lancer River. By then Armand had gathered a small band of people who still respected witches, and they made a small audience for this final performance of Nanny Gripes. As the guards tied her hands together, no one moved. No one moved, and no one mourned. They were simply there. The guards brought Nanny to the end of a makeshift plank and forced her onto it. Nanny turned around, and looked into everyone’s faces, as if remembering them for some evil revenge. After that, she jumped. The cold rushing water closed over her and brought her to her watery grave.
Many weeks later, Duke suffered from some strange heart attack, and was replaced once again. This duke brought a new witch to live in Nanny’s cottage and she turned into the most powerful witch in all of Discworld, and she came to be known as Granny Weatherwax. Some people still remembered old Nanny, and those who watched her jump into the river talked of her often. Many of them still swear that before Nanny jumped, the old woman had turned and smiled.