Read an Extract from The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett

Read an Extract from The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett



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.

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.

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 . . .

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.

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.*

‘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.


Text copyright © Terry and Lyn Pratchett, 2015. Illustrations copyright © Paul Kidby, 2015
Published in Great Britain by Doubleday, an imprint of Random House Children’s Publishers UK – A Penguin Random House Company