It had to be the wintersmith, Tiffany Aching told herself, standing in front of her father in the freezing farmhouse. She could feel it out there. This wasn't normal weather even for midwinter, and this was springtime. It was a challenge. Or perhaps it was just a game. It was hard to tell, with the wintersmith.
Only it can't be a game because the lambs are dying. I'm only just thirteen, and my father, and a lot of other people older than me, want me to do something. And I can't. The wintersmith has found me again. He is here now, and I'm too weak.
It would be easier if they were bullying me, but no, they're begging. My father's face is grey with worry and he's begging. My father is begging me
Oh no, he's taking his hat off. He's taking off his hat
to speak to speak to me!
They think magic comes free, when I snap my fingers. But if I can't do this for them, now, what good am I? I can't let them see I'm afraid. Witches aren't allowed to be afraid.
And this is my fault. I: I started all this. I must finish it.
Mr Aching cleared his throat.
'. . . And, er, if you could . . . er, magic it away, uh, or something? For us . . . ?'
Everything in the room was grey, because the light from the windows was coming through snow. No one had wasted time digging the horrible stuff away from the houses. Every person who could hold a shovel was needed elsewhere, and still there were not enough of them. As it was, most people had been up all night, walking the flocks of yearlings, trying to keep the new lambs safe . . . in the dark, in the snow . . .Her
snow. It was a message to her. A challenge. A summons.
'All right,' she said. 'I'll see what I can do.'
'Good girl,' said her father, grinning with relief. No, not a good girl, thought Tiffany. I brought this on us.
'You'll have to make a big fire, up by the sheds,' she said aloud. 'I mean a big fire, do you understand? Make it out of anything that will burn and you must keep it going. It'll keep trying to go out, but you must keep it going. Keep piling on the fuel, whatever happens. The fire must not go out!
She made sure that the 'not!' was loud and frightening. She didn't want people's minds to wander. She put on the heavy brown woollen cloak that Miss Treason had made for her and grabbed the black pointy hat that hung on the back of the farmhouse door. There was a sort of communal grunt from the people who'd crowded into the kitchen, and some of them backed away. We want a witch now, we need a witch now, but - we'll back away now, too.
That was the magic of the pointy hat. It was what Miss Treason called 'boffo'.
Tiffany Aching stepped out into the narrow corridor that had been cut through the snow-filled farmyard where the drifts were more than twice the height of a man. At least the deep snow kept off the worst of the wind, which was made of knives.
A track had been cleared all the way to the paddock, but it had been heavy-going. When there is fifteen feet of snow everywhere, how can you clear it? Where can you clear it to?
She waited by the cart sheds while the men hacked and scraped at the snow banks. They were tired to the bone by now; they'd been digging for hours.
The important thing was-
But there were lots of important things. It was important to look calm and confident, it was important to keep your mind clear, it was important not to show how pants-wettingly scared you were . . .
She held out a hand, caught a snowflake and took a good look at it. It wasn't one of the normal ones, oh no. It was one of his special snowflakes. That was nasty. He was taunting her. Now, she could hate him. She'd never hated him before. But he was killing the lambs.
She shivered, and pulled the cloak around her.
'This I choose to do,' she croaked, her breath leaving little clouds in the air. She cleared her throat and started again. 'This I choose to do. If there is a price, this I choose to pay. If it is my death, then I choose to die. Where this takes me, there I choose to go. I choose. This I choose to do.'
It wasn't a spell, except in her own head, but if you couldn't make spells work in your own head you couldn't make them work at all.
Tiffany wrapped her cloak around her against the clawing wind and watched dully as the men brought straw and wood. The fire started slowly, as if frightened to show enthusiasm.
She'd done this before, hadn't she? Dozens of times. The trick was not that hard when you got the feel of it, but she'd done it with time to get her mind right and, anyway, she'd never done it with anything more than a kitchen fire to warm her freezing feet. In theory it should be just as easy with a big fire and a field of snow, right?
Right?From the Hardcover edition.
--Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.