Scribblings from the hard shoulder of the Information Superhighway

Chance Meeting

This particular piece was written for the Terry Pratchett Fan Clubs magazine Ramtop To Rimfall and addressed the question of great unrequited Romances on the Discworld.

It was long ago, and it was far away… well actually it was about fifty years before the events being chronicled by the esteemed Mr Pratchett, and it was at the junction of two footpaths high in the Ramtops.

It was sunset, on a surprisingly temperate evening (for the Ramtops), a teenage girl, clad in sensible black, was making her way to the cottage of the local witch, Nanny Gripes. She had left her sick mother in the care of her sister, Lily, and was facing the upcoming interview with a mixture of dread and anticipation. Witching was, to be fair, an honourable and respected profession, particularly here in the Ramtops, everybody know that Nanny Gripes was getting to the end of her working life – the unfortunate confusion last summer when she put the horse linament in the ‘night of passion’ cream jars was only the most memorable error.

But was witching the right job for a teenager with rampant hormones? The girl was keen to learn more of the ways of the occult, as she had been spectacularly unsuccessful in attracting male companionship. Nature hadn’t been particularly kind to her in the beauty stakes, and the local lads tended to be somewhat intimidated by her stature, standing nearly six feet tall at fifteen years. She had even tried taking a box to parties, to enable amorous suitors to stand on, thus better positioning them for furtive smooches.

She paused for a few moments at the junction, studying the tree notches to check her bearings, and confirming her route.

“Ah, bella donna.” Came a voice from behind and below her.

“Not around here,” she replied, “you won’t get Belladonna growing around here. Too windy for a start.”

“No, you misunderstand,” the voice said, “it means ‘beautiful lady’ in the language of romance.”

“Ain’t never been there,” replied the girl haughtily, “and I don’t see as why forrn languages should go misusing the names of perfectly good herbs for illicit purposes.”

“Cherie,” the voice tried again, “such words cannot do justice to your loveliness.”

“Cherry? You’re doing it again.”

“No, my petit chou, I am merely trying to express my passion for you.”

“Petty shoe? What sort of a passion is that?”

“Your loveliness is beyond compare, I think I ‘ave fallen in love at first sight.”

“Really?” She replied.

“There are no words. I am rendered dumb in the presence of such beauty.”

“Well, sunshine, you seem to be doing all right so far. Any road, ‘fine words butter no parsnips’ as they say round here. Come out into the open where I can see you.”

“I am in the open, my love. Look down.” Said the young, impressionable man.

The teenage girl looked down, slowly, as though appraising a stick of sprouts.

“Well, you’re the right height for a dwarf, but where’s your beard?”

“My love, I am only short in stature, my love stands tall for you. Maiden, I am Joe Nunder, at your service.”

“Esmerelda Weatherwax. Charmed, I’m sure.” She replied haughtily. “What sort of a dwarf name is Joe Nunder?”

“I know,” he replied, “I was thinking of changing it to something more dramatic. Something more reflecting my passionate heart… Maybe a title?” He pondered for a second and then returned to the matter at hand. “Esmerelda – my emerald.”

“Aye, well sometimes things need to be named better so’s as people know what they are. But, I can’t help thinking,’ (and here, in all honesty, young Esmerelda’s thoughts were turning to boxes, cartons and crates) ‘as maybe we might be a little incompatible. In the verticality stakes.”

“My love, I ‘ave the answer.” He drew his swordstick from its scabbard.

“It’s a blunt sword.”

“No sweetness.” He pressed a button on the scabbard and threw the device at Esmerelda’s feet.

Leading edge dwarfish ingenuity had developed this swordstick, the tip split to form a tripod with three small feet, and small steps sprung from further up the blade and scabbard. The top steps boasted small loops to stabilise feet. He scampered up the steps until he was on the top two steps, where he stood with his face level with young Esmerelda’s.

“My goodness!”

“My Emerald!”

He reached over and kissed the young maiden.

So, Esmerelda never completed her trip to Nanny Gripes, never received training in the arts of witchery. Her sister, Lily stayed at home to nurse their ailing mother, Violet, and never made the trip to Genua.

Joe Nunder never changed his name, nor affected a phoney title.

Joe and Esmerelda were married within weeks, and Esmerelda bore two beautiful children, the Midwife was Gytha Ogg, the nearest local witch, as Badass never replaced Nanny Gripes.

When the children were old enough Esmerelda took to teaching in the Badass school, while Joe continued to develop specialist mechanical devices, including the now legendary ‘Nunder contra rotating chronometer’.

…and the Nunder-Weatherwaxes lived happily ever after