Three witches - Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick - have gathered on a lonely heath. A king has been cruelly murdered, his throne usurped by his ambitious cousin. An infant heir and the crown of the kingdom, both missing . . .
Witches don't have these kind of dynastic problems themselves - in fact, they don't have leaders.
Granny Weatherwax was the most highly-regarded of the leaders the witches don't have. But even she found that meddling in royal politics was a lot more complicated than certain playwrights would have you believe . . .
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'What now, Sarge?'
'We - we spread out,' he said. 'Yes. We spread out. That's what we do.'
They moved carefully through the bracken. The sergeant crouched behind a handy log, and said, 'Right. Very good. You've got the general idea. Now let's spread out again, and this time we spread out separately.'
'Admit it - she offered you hedonistic and licentious pleasures know only to those who dabble in the carnal arts, didn't she?''
The sergeant stood to attention and stared straight ahead.
'No, sir,' he said, in the manner of one speaking the truth come what may. 'She offered me a bun.'
'Yes, sir. It had ciurrants in it.'
Felmet sat absolutely still while he fought for internal peace. Finally, all he could manage was, 'And what did your men do about this?'
'They had a bun too, sir. All except young Roger, who isn't allowed fruit, sir, on account of his trouble.'
The duke sagged back on the window seat and put his hand over his eyes. I was born to rule down on the plains, he thought, where it's all flat and there isn't all this weather and everything and there are people who don't appear to be made of dough. He's going to tell me what this Roger had.
'He had a biscuit, sir.'
The Fool was fascinated by what happened to the duke's eyes. The mad red flame vanished, was sucked backwards, and was replaced by the hard blue stare he had come to recognize. It didn't mean, he realized, that the duke was any less mad. Even the coldness of his sanity was madness in a way. The duke had a mind that ticked like a clock and, like a clock, it regularly went cuckoo.
Magrat stood and stared at the wilting posy in her hands. She ran her fingers through her hair and a shower of wilted petals fell out.
She felt that an important moment had been allowed to slip out of her grasp as fasr as a greased pig in a narrow passageway.
She felt an overpowering urge to curse. She knew a great many curses. Goodie Whemper had been really imaginative in that department; even the creatures of the forest used to go past her cottage at a dead run.
She couldn't find a single one that fully expressed her feelings.
'Oh bugger,' she said.
Finally Granny drew herself up, surveyed her dark reflection in the glass, gave a thin little smile of approval, and left via the back door.
The air of menace was only slightly dispelled by the sound of her running up and down outside, trying to get her broomstick started.