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       The Shepherd's Crown, p.1
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         Part #41 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
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The Shepherd's Crown


  Table of Contents

  Cover

  Contents

  About the Book

  Title Page

  Dedication

  Prologue: A Crown in the Chalk

  Chapter 1: Where the Wind Blows

  Chapter 2: A Voice in the Darkness

  Chapter 3: An Upside-down World

  Chapter 4: A Farewell – and a Welcome

  Chapter 5: A Changing World

  Chapter 6: Around the Houses

  Chapter 7: A Force of Nature

  Chapter 8: The Baron’s Arms

  Chapter 9: Good with Goats

  Chapter 10: Treasure

  Chapter 11: The Big City

  Chapter 12: An Elf among the Feegles

  Chapter 13: Mischief . . . and Worse

  Chapter 14: A Tale of Two Queens

  Chapter 15: The God in the Barrow

  Chapter 16: Mr Sideways

  Chapter 17: An Argument of Witches

  Chapter 18: The Shepherd’s Crown

  Chapter 19: Peace

  Epilogue: A Whisper on the Chalk

  Afterword

  Acknowledgements

  A Feegle Glossary

  Bonus Content: The Witches of Discworld

  About the Author

  Also by Terry Pratchett

  Praise for Sir Terry Pratchett

  Copyright

  Contents

  Cover

  About the Book

  Title Page

  Dedication

  Prologue: A Crown in the Chalk

  Chapter 1: Where the Wind Blows

  Chapter 2: A Voice in the Darkness

  Chapter 3: An Upside-down World

  Chapter 4: A Farewell – and a Welcome

  Chapter 5: A Changing World

  Chapter 6: Around the Houses

  Chapter 7: A Force of Nature

  Chapter 8: The Baron’s Arms

  Chapter 9: Good with Goats

  Chapter 10: Treasure

  Chapter 11: The Big City

  Chapter 12: An Elf among the Feegles

  Chapter 13: Mischief . . . and Worse

  Chapter 14: A Tale of Two Queens

  Chapter 15: The God in the Barrow

  Chapter 16: Mr Sideways

  Chapter 17: An Argument of Witches

  Chapter 18: The Shepherd’s Crown

  Chapter 19: Peace

  Epilogue: A Whisper on the Chalk

  Afterword

  Acknowledgements

  A Feegle Glossary

  Bonus Content: The Witches of Discworld

  About the Author

  Also by Terry Pratchett

  Praise for Sir Terry Pratchett

  Copyright

  About the Book

  A SHIVERING OF WORLDS

  Deep in the Chalk, something is stirring. The owls and the foxes can sense it, and Tiffany Aching feels it in her boots. An old enemy is gathering strength.

  This is a time of endings and beginnings, old friends and new, a blurring of edges and a shifting of power. Now Tiffany stands between the light and the dark, the good and the bad.

  As the fairy horde prepares for invasion, Tiffany must summon all the witches to stand with her. To protect the land. Her land.

  There will be a reckoning . . .

  THE FINAL DISCWORLD® NOVEL

  THE SHEPHERD’S

  CROWN

  Terry Pratchett

  A DISCWORLD® NOVEL

  For Esmerelda Weatherwax

  – mind how you go.

  PROLOGUE

  A Crown in the Chalk

  IT WAS BORN in the darkness of the Circle Sea; at first just a soft floating thing, washed back and forth by tide after tide. It grew a shell, but in its rolling, tumbling world there were huge creatures which could have cracked it open in an instant. Nevertheless, it survived. Its little life might have gone on like this for ever until the dangers of the surf and other floating things brought an end, were it not for the pool.

  It was a warm pool, high on a beach, replenished by occasional storms blown in from the Hub, and there the creature lived on things even smaller than itself and grew until it became king. It would have got even bigger if it were not for the hot summer when the water evaporated under the glare of the sun.

  And so the little creature died, but its carapace remained, carrying within itself the seed of something sharp. On the next stormy tide it was washed away onto the littoral, where it lodged, rolling back and forth with the pebbles and other detritus of the storms.

  The sea rolled down the ages until it dried and withdrew from the land, and the spiky shell of the long-dead creature sank beneath layers of the shells of other small creatures which had not survived. And there it lay, with the sharp core growing slowly inside, until the day when it was found by a shepherd minding his flock on the hills that had become known as the Chalk.

  He picked up the strange object which had caught his eye, held it in his hand and turned it over and over. Lumpy, but not lumpy, and it fitted in the palm of his hand. Too regular a shape to be a flint, and yet it had flint in its heart. The surface was grey, like stone, but with a hint of gold beneath the grey. There were five distinct ridges spaced evenly, almost like stripes, rising from a flattish base to its top. He had seen things like this before. But this one seemed different – it had almost jumped into his hand.

  The little piece tumbled as he turned it around and about, and he had a feeling that it was trying to tell him something. It was silly, he knew, and he hadn’t had a beer yet, but the strange object seemed to fill his world. Then he cursed himself as an idiot but nevertheless kept it and took it to show his mates in the pub.

  ‘Look,’ he said, ‘it looks like a crown.’

  Of course, one of his mates laughed and said, ‘A crown? What would you want with one of them? You’re no king, Daniel Aching.’

  But the shepherd took his find home and placed it carefully on the shelf in his kitchen where he kept the things he liked.

  And there, eventually, it was forgotten and was lost to history.

  But not to the Achings, who handed it down, generation to generation . . .

  CHAPTER 1

  Where the Wind Blows

  IT WAS ONE of those days that you put away and remember. High on the downs, above her parents’ farm, Tiffany Aching felt as though she could see to the end of the world. The air was as clear as crystal, and in the brisk wind the dead leaves from the autumn swirled around the ash trees as they rattled their branches to make way for the new spring growth.

  She had always wondered why the trees grew there. Granny Aching had told her there were old tracks up here, made in the days when the valley below had been a swamp. Granny said that was why the ancient people had made their homes high up – away from the swamp, and away from other people who would like to raid their livestock.

  Perhaps they had found a sense of refuge near the old circles of stones they found there. Perhaps they had been the ones who built them? No one knew for certain where they had come from . . . but even though they didn’t really believe it, everyone knew that they were the kind of thing it was probably better to leave alone. Just in case. After all, even if a circle did hide some old secrets or treasure, well, what use was that when it came to sheep? And although many of the stones had fallen down, what if the person buried underneath didn’t want to be dug up? Being dead didn’t mean you couldn’t get angry, oh no.

  But Tiffany herself had once used one particular set of stones to pass through an arch to Fairyland – a Fairyland most decidedly not like the one she had read about in The Goode Childe’s Booke of Faerie Tales – and she knew the dangers were real.

  Today, for some reason, she had felt the need to come up to
the stones. Like any sensible witch, she wore strong boots that could march through anything – good, sensible boots. But they did not stop her feeling her land, feeling what it told her. It had begun with a tickle, an itch that crept into her feet and demanded to be heard, urging her to tramp over the downs, to visit the circle, even while she was sticking her hand up a sheep’s bottom to try and sort out a nasty case of colic. Why she had to go to the stones, Tiffany did not know, but no witch ignored what could be a summons. And the circles stood as protection. Protection for her land – protection from what could come through . . .

  She had headed up there immediately, a slight frown on her face. But somehow, up there, on top of the Chalk, everything was right. It always was. Even today.

  Or was it? For, to Tiffany’s surprise, she had not been the only one drawn to the old circle that day. As she spun in the crisp, clean air, listening to the wind, the leaves dancing across her feet, she recognized the flash of red hair, a glimpse of tattooed blue skin – and heard a muttered ‘Crivens’ as a particularly joyful surge of leaves got caught on the horns of a rabbit’s-skull helmet.

  ‘The kelda hersel’ sent me here to keep an eye on these stones,’ said Rob Anybody from his vantage point on a rocky outcrop close by. He was surveying the landscape as if he were watching for raiders. Wherever they came from. Particularly if they came through a circle.

  ‘And if any of them scuggans wants to come back and try again, we’re always ready for them, ye ken,’ he added hopefully. ‘I’m sure we can give them oor best Feegle hospitality.’ He drew his wiry blue frame up to its full six inches and brandished his claymore at an invisible enemy.

  The effect, Tiffany thought, not for the first time, was quite impressive.

  ‘Those ancient raiders are all long dead,’ she said before she could stop herself, even though her Second Thoughts were telling her to listen properly. If Jeannie – Rob’s wife and the kelda of the Feegle clan – had seen trouble a-brewing, well, it was likely that trouble was on the way.

  ‘Dead? Weel, so are we,’ said Rob.fn1

  ‘Alas,’ Tiffany sighed. ‘In those long-ago days, mortals just died. They didn’t come back like you seem to do.’

  ‘They would if they had some of our brose.’

  ‘What’s that?’ asked Tiffany.

  ‘Weel, it’s a kind of porridge with everything in it and, if possible, ye ken, a dram of brandy or some of your old granny’s Sheep Liniment.’

  Tiffany laughed, but that uneasiness remained. I need to speak to Jeannie, she thought. Need to know why she and my boots are both feeling the same thing.

  When they arrived at the large grassy mound nearby that housed the intricate warren of the Feegle dwelling, Tiffany and Rob made their way over to the patch of briars which concealed the main entrance and found Jeannie sitting outside, eating a sandwich.

  Mutton, Tiffany thought with just a tinge of annoyance. She was well aware of the agreement with the Feegles that they could have the occasional old ewe in exchange for the fun of fightin’ off the corbies that would otherwise swoop down on the young lambs, who were doing their best to do what lambs did best: get lost, and get dead. The lost lambs up on the Chalk had a new trick now – heading at speed across the downs, sometimes backwards, with a Feegle under each tiny foot, as they were returned to the flock.

  A kelda needed a big appetite, for there was only one kelda in a Nac Mac Feegle clan, and she had a lot of sons, plus the occasional lucky daughter popping out.fn2 Each time Tiffany saw Jeannie, the little kelda was a bit wider and a bit rounder. Those hips took work, and Jeannie was certainly working hard at getting them bigger right now as she tackled what looked like half a sheep’s leg between two bits of bread. No mean feat for a Feegle only six inches high, and as Jeannie grew to become a wise old kelda, the word ‘belt’ would no longer signify something to hold up her kilt but just something to mark her equator.

  Young Feegles were herding snails and wrestling. They were bouncing off each other, off the walls, and sometimes off their own boots. They were in awe of Tiffany, seeing in her a kind of kelda, and they stopped brawling and looked at her nervously as she approached.

  ‘Line up, lads, show oor hag how hard ye ha’ been workin’,’ their mother said with pride in her voice, wiping a smear of mutton fat off her lips.

  Oh no, Tiffany thought. What am I going to see? I hope it doesn’t involve snails . . .

  But Jeannie said, ‘Let yon hag hear your ABC now. Come on, you start, Slightly-more-wee-than-wee-Jock-Jock.’

  The first Feegle in the line scratched at his spog and flicked a small beetle out. It seems to be a fact of life that a Feegle’s spog will always be itchy, Tiffany thought, possibly because what is kept in it might still be alive. Slightly-more-wee-than-wee-Jock-Jock swallowed. ‘A is for . . . axe,’ he bellowed. ‘To cut yer heid off, ye ken,’ he added with a proud boast.

  ‘B is for boot!’ shouted the next Feegle, wiping something that looked like snail slime down the front of his kilt. ‘So as to stamp on yer heid.’

  ‘An’ C is for claymore . . . and crivens, I’ll gi’e ye sich a guid kickin’ if’n you stick that sword intae me one muir time,’ shouted the third, turning and hurling himself at one of his brothers.

  A yellowing crescent-shaped object fell to the ground as the brawl spun off into the brambles, and Rob snatched it up and tried to hide it behind his back.

  Tiffany narrowed her eyes. That had looked suspiciously like . . . yes, a bit of old toenail!

  ‘Weel,’ said Rob, shuffling his feet, ‘ye is always cuttin’ these little chunks off’n them old gentl’men you goes to visit most days. They fly out o’ the winders, jus’ waitin’ for a body to pick ’em up. An’ they is hard as nails, ye ken.’

  ‘Yes, that’s because they are nails—’ Tiffany began, then stopped. After all, maybe someone like old Mr Nimlet would like to know that parts of his body were still ready for a scrap. Even if he himself couldn’t get out of a chair without help these days.

  The kelda drew her to one side now, and said, ‘Weel, hen, your name is in the soil. It talks to you, Tir-far-thóinn, Land Under Wave. Do you talk to it?’

  ‘Yes,’ said Tiffany. ‘Only sometimes though. But I do listen, Jeannie.’

  ‘Not every day?’ said the kelda.

  ‘No, not every day. So much to do, so much to do.’

  ‘I ken that,’ said the kelda. ‘Ye know that I watch over you. I watch ye in my heid, but I also see ye whizzing aboot over me heid. And ye must remember ye are a long time deid.’

  Tiffany sighed, weary to her bones. Going around the houses – that was what you did if you were a compassionate witch, what she and all the other witches did to fill in the gaps in the world, doing things that had to be done: carrying logs in for an old lady or popping on a pot of stew for a dinner, bringing a herbal remedy for a sore leg or a troublesome ache, fetching a basket of ‘spare’ eggs or second-hand clothes for a new baby in a house where money was scarce, and listening, oh yes, always listening to people’s troubles and worries. And the toenails . . . those toenails, they seemed to be as hard as flint, and sometimes an old boy without friends or family would have his toenails twisting inside his boots.

  But the reward for lots of work seemed to be lots more. If you dug the biggest hole, they just gave you a bigger shovel . . .

  ‘Today, Jeannie,’ she said slowly, ‘I did listen to the land. It told me to go to the circle . . .?’ There was a question hanging in the air.

  The kelda sighed. ‘I dinnae see it clear yet, but there is . . . something not right, Tiffan,’ she said. ‘The veil between oor worlds is thin and can be easily brake, ye ken. The stones stand, so the gateway is nae open – and the Quin of the Elves will nae be strong after ye sent her back to Fairyland afore. She will nae be in a hurry to get past ye agin, but . . . I am still a-feared. I can feel it noo, like a fog driftin’ oor way.’

  Tiffany bit her lip. If the kelda was worried, she knew she should be too.


  ‘Dinnae fash yesel’,’ Jeannie said softly, watching Tiffany closely. ‘Whin ye need the Feegles, we will be there. And until that time, we will keep a watch for ye.’ She took a last bite of her sandwich, and then gave Tiffany a different sort of look as she changed the subject. ‘Ye ha’ a young man – Preston, I think you call him. Do ye see him much?’ Her gaze was suddenly as sharp as an axe.

  ‘Well,’ said Tiffany, ‘he works hard, just like I do. Him in the hospital and me in the Chalk.’ To her horror, she felt herself begin to blush, the kind of blush that begins in your toes and works its way up to your face until you look like a tomato. She couldn’t blush! Not like a young country girl with a beau. She was a witch! ‘We write to each other,’ she added in a small voice.

  ‘And is that enough? Letters?’

  Tiffany swallowed. She had once thought – everyone had thought – that she and Preston might have an Understanding, him being an educated boy, running the new school at the barn on the Achings’ farm until he had enough saved to go study in the big city to be a doctor. Now everyone still thought they had an Understanding, including Tiffany and Preston. Except . . . did she have to do what everyone expected her to do? ‘He is very nice and tells wonderful jokes and is great with words,’ she tried to explain. ‘But . . . we like our work, both of us, in fact you might say we are our work. Preston is working so hard at the Lady Sybil Free Hospital. And I can’t help thinking about Granny Aching and how much she liked her life, up on the downs, just her and the sheep and her two dogs, Thunder and Lightning, and . . .’ She tailed off and Jeannie laid a small nut-brown hand on her arm.

  ‘Do ye think this is the way to live, my girl?’

  ‘Well, I do like what I am doing and it helps people.’

  ‘But who helps you? That broomstick of yours flies everywhere and I think sometimes it might burst into flames. Ye look after everybody – but who looks after ye? If Preston is away, weel, there’s your friend the Baron and his new wife. Surely they care about their people. Care enough to help.’

  ‘They do care,’ said Tiffany, remembering with a shudder how everyone had once also thought that she and Roland, now the Baron, had an Understanding. Why were they so keen to try and find her a husband? Were husbands that difficult to find if she wanted one? ‘Roland is a decent man, although not yet as good as his father became. And Letitia . . .’

 
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