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Fanfic / The Price of Flight

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The proposed interceptor/fighter broom code-named the P-51. Illustration identified as by Jon Cameron.
You are good, Olga Romanoff, and you know it. I'm minded to think you're the greatest air witch we've got. But be mindful, girl. There is a price of flight and you'll be called upon to pay it. That's all I'm sayin'.

In which Olga Romanoff realises her deal with flight is like Jason Ogg's bargain with blacksmithing. If you aspire to be the greatest flying Witch on the Discworld, you have to be prepared to fly anything. Even if it's as bizarre, pointless and ludicrous as putting horseshoes on an ant. You get it in the air. And come down again. And walk away from it.

This is a work by A.A. Pessimal in which the workings of the Ankh-Morpork City Air Watch are presented in greater detail. In the Discworld, canonical novels like Night Watch and Snuff present the embryonic beginnings of this organisation. Night Watch sees one of the Watch Feegle experimenting with using birds of prey as patrol vehicles to give the police force an eye in the sky. In Snuff, he discovers that he can use the Feegle magic of the Crawstep to take a short-cut around reality and arrive in Howondaland mere minutes later.

Pessimal's writings take this a step further. What if the Watch expands its Air Division by employing Witches, fliers who come with their own broomsticks, viewed at the time as a great saving. Those first two Witches decided they liked it in the Watch. Those Witch Police Constables recruited others. Lord Vetinari, aware that at the time of Leshp, the Klatchians would have used their fleet of magic carpets both for aerial attack, and as a means of moving Airborne troops into the City to capture strategic locations quickly, is aware he needs an Air Force of his own to counter this. Fast. R&D funding is made available. At the same time, by magical accident, Pegasi return to the city. These are incorporated too. The first Witches upgrade from broomsticks to majestic white winged horses.

By degrees, Ankh-Morpork gets its Air Force. A multi-national command of Witches are drawn in, attracted by the promise of all the flying hours they can eat. Young witches from the training covens in Lancre and the Chalk, those who are drawn to flight and flight technomancy, swell the ranks.

A sub-plot in the tales, one of several, involves the nature of the Discworld's "Russians", a people hinted at in canon (The Fifth Elephant, Wintersmith, and The Compleat Discworld Atlas). At some point in canonical Discworld history, there was an Evil Empire with its heart in Far Überwald, that grew in strength, stretched too far, and disintegrated. Pessimal asked what form something like the Discworld Russia might have taken, how far would it have stretched, what would be left after the collapse, and what is the potential for it reuniting and re-establishing itself.

The story can be found here.

These tropes take wing and fly:

  • Action Mom: In the first story arc note  Olga Romanoff is single and unmarried. The second story arc note  takes place ten years later when she is married with two children. This doesn't stop her from fighting but it makes her far more careful.
  • Air Jousting: This is standard Air Watch training. The earlier tale Gap Year Adventures, has a scene where rival superpowers Klatch and Ankh-Morpork are both developing their own sort-of-an Air Force. Each monitors its rival air users in their own airspace, in a manner reminiscent of Nato and Warsaw Pact planes shadowing each other. Ankh-Morpork's winged horses are shadowed by Klatchian magic carpets while on agreed flight paths over Klatch. A Klatchian carpet pilot and an Ankh-Morporkian Pegasus rider decide to have a little fun by engaging in a mock dogfight over a remote oasis settlement, watched by people on the ground. The theme of Klatchian and Ankh-Morporkian aviators shadowing each other is developed in this story.
  • Aliens Never Invented the Wheel: Various Air Witches, at a time when the walls between the worlds overlap, have vivid dreams involving various sorts of flying machines, possibly on Roundworld. One witch, travelling in the mind of an air gunner on a First World War biplane, contemplates the engine driving the aircraft and is puzzled as to where the boiler goes and where the coal is stored in such a small space. While she can easily visualise how an engine can make an airscrew turn and she grasps the principle involved instantly, her only referent is the steam engine: internal combustion is not something her mind could begin to contemplate. She is also taken aback that this place does not appear to have any discernable form of magic.
  • Area Fifty-Seven: the Air Watch expanded from its canonical beginnings of Gnomes and Feegle riding tamed birds, and welcomed Witches of an aeronautic turn of mind who accepted Watch membership was the entry ticket to almost unlimited flying hours, plus the chance to do well-resourced R&D into the Magitek nature of flight. Lord Vetinari had an ulterior motive in mind: right from the start, he envisaged an Air Arm, perhaps a sort of Royal Ankh-Morporkian Air Force, capable of challenging the Klatchians for mastery of the skies. The expanded Air Division, at the latest point on the timeline, maintains its principal base at Pseudopolis Yard in the City, exploiting the large flat roof over the mews as its landing strip. It also has forward bases in Chirm, Lancre, and at the City Zoo. The Pseudopolis Yard airbase is where most of the research takes place into, for instance, larger, sleeker and faster broomsticks and other flying Devices. Very tight security is in force here. The local UFO-nuts absolutely insist this is where Lord Vetinari sanctions fiendish experiments into the nature of flight and where the aliens from other planets, who speak a language so bizzarely strange it could not possibly have evolved on the Discworld; it even uses an alien alphabet, look!, clandestinely descend to speak to the Patrician. Naturally, all this is hushed up. Air Division commanding officer Olga Romanoff is aware members of her multi-national command of witches have a collective weird sense of humour and have, with totally straight faces, "leaked" information to the UFO-nuts, about it being designated Area Fifty-Seven, along with tall tales about what goes on there. Just For the Lulz. Olga discourages this sort of thing.
  • Attack Drone: The Air Watch experiment with un-womanned broomsticks carrying both magical spells and conventional explosives, designed to get high up and explode, for arguments' sake, in the middle of a formation of Klatchian magic carpets that might be invading or bombing the City. This was born out of a potentially calamitous test flight of a vertical take-off interceptor broom called the ME-163 Komet - the pilot parachuted out just before the broom, overloaded with magical energy, exploded. Elsewhere, remotely controlled magic carpets (made cheaply from worn-out carpet loaded with the right spells) are used as target drones to practice air combat and air-to-air shooting.
  • Attending Your Own Funeral: Two of the Air Watch pilots killed in action fighting Elves over Lancre show up for their own memorial service. Obligingly, the other flying Witches of the Air Watch have left gaps for them in the ranks on parade. As the first people to be killed in a declared Air War over the Discworld, not only Death, but War, turns up to welcome them to the other side. War points out to them that he has job vacancies, and both Tatiana and Sigrid become Valkyries- a post-mortem career that allows them to regularly visit the mortal world, AND to have time off to attend their own funerals.
  • Baba Yaga: The story opens with the death of the elderly Witch who took Olga and Irena as apprentices. Natalia Svetlananvichniya has ascended to the most potent level in Rodinian witchcraft: as a babayaga, she plays in the same premier league as Granny Weatherwax. On her death, Olga ensures the young Lancre-trained Vasilisa Budonova takes over as village Witch in her first Steading. Olga then has to deal with the legacy bequeathed her by Natalia: she inherits the Babayaga's jealously-guarded method of flight - the magically charged mortar and pestle. The Price Of Flight involves learning how to fly and land it safely - without training or a pilot's manual to read.
  • Badass Biker: Irena and Olga are the Biker Babes of witchcraft: young broomstick technomancers who chose to specialise in flight, take the everyday mode of transportation of the working Witch, and soup it up a little. Well, a lot. Their Wrench Wench skills with flight technomancy turn the sedate Morris Minor of the working witch into something like an airborne Harley Davidson. They are, for instance, officially banned from going too fast over Ankh-Morpork as it causes buildings to shake and windows to crack. Employed as Air Watch Witches, they take the natural authority of the Witch and harness it to police work. This is thought best for all concerned. And when an accident involving a Gorgon and a nose-bleed re-introduces Pegasi, winged flying horses, to the world - well, hold them back. note . They perform sterling service for Ankh-Morpork in a cycle of tales beginning with Bad Hair Day.
  • Badass Teacher: Yelena Garianova, a woman who discovered the essential truth that all roads lead to Ankh-Morpork, becomes, for part of her week, Watch Education Officer. The other half of her week is spent working at the Assassins' Guild School, who also want a teacher with her specific experience. Yelena, a Cossack from a far region that has difficult neighbours, soon makes it to Sergeant. She considers a week spent alternating between teaching Rodinian to student Assassins, and offering a general education to student Witches, is as satisfying and stimulating as the teaching profession can get. Watchmen seeking help with basic literacy issues also treat her with great respect.
  • Bilingual Bonus: the girls of the Air Watch come from many different countries, with one predominating. The one Agatean pilot, for instance, is called Waiteisei Majokko-san. The Vortex Plains, in canon a cold and inhospitable place populated by a nomadic horse-tribe, is another of those leftovers from the fall of Rodinia, and is called Сибирь by those who live there.note 
  • Born of Magic: The first two Pegasi were called into being after a maddened Troll punched the Watch gorgon in the face, breaking her nose. (It was a bad nosebleed). It is later realised that a Pegasus can interbreed with a normal wingless horse, and all Pegasi born this way, if they don't inherit the apparent immortality of the first two, will have a vastly lengthened lifespan.
  • Bun Of Steel: Olga's take on Power Hair. She rolls and pins her hair up into a strict bun surrounded by a rolled crown note . While not consciously aware of the effect until she thinks through the logic of Headology, this gives her a distinctly regal look that makes people think again about getting in her way, and she is treated with extreme respect and deference.
  • Call of the Wild Blue Yonder: Practically every current Air Witch looked up into the sky and thought - that is where I belong.
  • The Captain: Olga Romanoff, who by slow and inevitable advancements unwillingly and reluctantly became Commanding Officer and "Squadron Leader" of the Air Watch.
  • Captain Crash: New recruit Matilda Glossop distinguishes herself in her first combat flight by shooting down a member of the Gentry and then crashing her broomstick in a spectacular power-dive. Matilda walks away, more or less unscathed; but soon gets a nickname in the Air Watch - "Death Of Broomsticks".
  • Catapult Nightmare: Olga's awakening from a dream of flying a big, powerful, air vehicle, at an impossible height, from inside a closed compartment. Something happens and just before reawakening in Ankh-Morpork, she experiences what it's like to be inside a very hot fireball.
  • Clifftop Caterwauling; When the first Air Witch dies in combat with The Fair Folk, the Rodinian pilots gather on a high battlement at Lancre Castle, and sing a Cossack fighting song as a lament and as a vow of revenge against the Elves. note 
  • Code Name: Given a Magitek version of radio co-ordinated from a central control and command system, the Air Witches adopt callsign names. These inevitably become a Nom de Guerre even when not on active service. Examples include Syren, Vorona, Snegurochka, Mother Hen, Stormy Petrel, Firebird, Valkyrie, Red Star, Parrot, Death of Broomsticks and Penguin.
  • Cool Airship: The Count von Bleiballoon's brainchild, the Luftschiff.
  • Comically Small Demand: Captain Olga Romanoff puts on an absolutely straight face when she suggests "a new dartboard" from Vetinari. note . Vetinari decodes what she really means, and all the participating Air Watch pilots receive a large cash bonus. Olga herself gets enough to buy a family home. While he also confers medals, he also commits the Air Watch to a celebratory parade to receive the Thanks Of The Grateful City - which means they have to spend weeks learning all about parade marching.
  • The Courier: Ankh-Morpork's courier needs are served by the Pegasus Service, the marvellous winged horses which are nominally part of the City Air Watch. Each of those seventeen pilots, viewed as the élite of the Air Watch, is served by a Feegle Navigator who can get the pilot and her mount anywhere on the Disc within an hour. Lord Vetinari uses them to convey diplomatic bags, air mail, and his personal greetings to Governments around the Disc. As these pilots discover, the price of this sort of flight is that they also have to be Post Office Trained. Regulations demand this.
  • Cunning Linguist: with so many nationalities in the Air Watch and an operational need for everyone to be acceptably fluent in Morporkian, this is a default position. While the Air Watch has an argot and a vocabulary all of its own, many of the operational words of command are in Rodinian and where foot drill and parade drill are called for, the Word of command is almost inevitably in Überwaldean.
  • Cute Witch: Olga Romanoff is also grappling with the domestic problems of a working mother. One dawning realisation is that her five-year-old daughter Valla is clearly and unmistakeably developing Magic, and is using it. Valla therefore needs guidance and training. She also wonders why Valla's twin brother Vassily is showing absolutely no signs of magical ability. Surely twins should each have this in abundance?
  • Death from Above: The Air Watch are also trained to perform ground attacks. Even as policewomen, and constrained by Sam Vimes, perps on the ground have learnt there is no dodging a determined Air Witch who is flying an Aerial Canyon Chase along the streets of Ankh-Morpork.
  • Declining Promotion: Those first two Witches to join the City Watch, who become the nucleus of the Air Watch, both successfully evaded promotion for several years, content to remain Air Constables. As Irena Politek argues, all the govno that comes with the responsibility of rank just isn't worth it for a few more dollars a month. As more witches and flight-capable people come to the Air Watch, this refusal to be promoted does not sit well with either Sam Vimes or Lord Vetinari. In particular, it does not sit with Vetinari's plans to create a dedicated Air Force. After displaying exceptional ability on a mission, Vetinari deliberately addresses Olga as "Sergeant Romanoff". Olga reluctantly gets with the programme. Corporal Politek follows on shortly afterwards. This leads, incrementally, to the set-up described here.
    • At the end of the Syrrit arc, one of the Air Watch's problem children is, very deliberately, promoted to Corporal, in the hope this will force her to behave in a more mature way. Her reaction is to swear fulsomely.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Four years after the end of the air war in Lancre, Nadezhda Popova becomes mother of a daughter. There can only be one possible name. The newborn child becomes Tatiana Nadezhovna, named for Nadezhda's dead comrade Tatiana Grigorenko. Interestingly, a prophecy made by a Baba Yaga before she died is that the newborn Tatiana will end up receiving the swords of the dead woman she is named for.
  • Desk Jockey: Olga, firstly when she is wounded in action and is absolutely barred from flying by her medical advisor. To her annoyance, both her subordinate Lieutenants (Irena and Nadezhda) see this is enforced. When she is cleared to fly again, Vetinari takes a hand and contrives a situation where everybody who is senior to her in the City Watch goes on leave. This obliges her to stay grounded as Acting Watch Commander, where she gets to fly Sam Vimes' desk for a fortnight.
  • Dodge by Braking: Irena Politek pulls this one while being pursued by Lords and Ladies who are hot on her tail and whose fire is getting too close. Her Feegle navigator pulls them into "Feegle Space" via the Crawstep, counts to five, and brings them back in exactly the same place. Where the formerly pursuing People of Glamour are now in front of her, and vulnerable to a spray of fireballs.
  • Due to the Dead: There is a funeral with full honours. There is an annual memorial service. There is also a memorial plaque on the wall of the Air Station bearing the legend "They Paid The Price Of Flight".
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: In her first appearances in the Discworld, Irena Politek was intended to be a Discworld version of a Czech or a Slovak (hence the vaguely Czech-sounding name, intended to make her distinct from the "Russian" Olga Romanoff) and introduce a cross-Slavonic needling. This got lost as the concept evolved, as did the horrible initial attempts to reproduce "Russian" accents in their spoken "English". In this story, Irena is as Rodinian as Olga - the needle comes from Olga being an aristocrat while Irena is a revolutionary with Soviet ideas.
  • Ending Memorial Service: The first story arc ends with the funeral of the four Air Witches who died fighting The Fair Folk in the skies over Lancre and the Chalk. Ten years later, the second story arcnote  begins with the annual Memorial Service for the dead of the Air Watch.
  • Extra-Dimensional Shortcut: The Crawstep, used canonically in Snuff and expanded here via the Feegle Navigators who guide the Pegasus Service.
  • Exposed Starship Bridge: The Ankh-Morpork City Air Watch has its own Air Force variant of this. A division of the City Watch, their principal base, for good organisational reasons, is at Pseudopolis Yard. For a long time, its control and direction in the skies was via the "Control Tower" - a separate floor of the Clacks tower serving the Yard, which was built higher and taller for this reason. As technomancy improves, the actual Command structure is brought indoors, into a protected and shielded room, which houses the technomantic comms used for control, as well as a sort of technomage Steampunk radar system. However, vulnerable sensors and Devices are still mounted on the top and sides of the Control Tower so as to relay info to the Command Room, and Irena Politek worries about how exposed this would be to attack.
  • Fat Camp: Air Watch commanding officer Captain Olga Romanoff had to ask Assassin advice when she took her first, reluctantly accepted, draft of recruit wizards, some of whom had settled into typical Wizard ways of eating even before graduating. An inferred detail is that there had to be a Fat Camp for some of her Wizards.note 
    "Let me get this straight. I want no excess weight on my air vehicles.''
  • Flapping Cheeks: To maximise aircrew numbers, the Air Watch will take any Ground Watch member with a head for heights up as aircrew. After all, only the pilot needs to be a magic user. The problem with taking Captain Angua von Überwald up as aircrew, pilots report, is that she gets over-excited, wants to lean out into the slipstream, and howl. Olga Romanoff speculates that this is something hardwired into the canine psyche, even for werewolves.
  • Flying Broomstick: The main workhorse of the Air Watch. Once upon a time, two young witches came out of Far Überwald to seek training in Lancre. Olga and Irena have a passion for flight. They develop into broomstick technomancers who seek to push the technomancy as far as it will (im)possibly go. Snapped up by Sam Vimes as prospects for the expanding Air Police and backed by his budget for R&D, they go to town. Vetinari, who needs an Air Force as a counter to the uneasy realization that Klatchians would have used magic carpets as a means of launching an airborne invasion, supports the two auburn-headed witches as they build an, er, Red Hair Force. Elves — on fast, maneuverable yarrow stalks — are also an airborne enemy to be shot down without pity where encountered. Innovations include a pretty much supersonic broom that they are banned from riding over the city because of its effect on windows. They have Dwarf technicians, the Messers Schmidt, whose designs are code-named with prefixes like the ME-262 (the aforementioned broom that flies faster than Discworld sound) and the ME-110 (a two-seater mounting automatic crossbows fore and aft). A Dwarf from a Far Überwaldean clan called Mig Oyeff is adding his designs to the mix. The naming of souped-up high-performance broomsticks, necessarily festooned with armaments, is indeed an, er, Hurricane of Puns involving a couple of Spitfire pilots... note 
  • Flying Postman: Delivering Air Mail has largely been a monopoly of Klatch and its (currently) civilian-orientated force of magic carpets - which now offer an unparelleled passenger and airmail service linking the major cities of the entire Disc. It has not been lost on Lord Vetinari that the Klatchians made a kind offer to ferry the diplomatic bags of Embassies to and from their home capitals - for a modest fee and a promise the diplomatic secrets will not be interecepted or tampered with while in transit. Vetinari's riposte was to offer the growing Pegasus Service as Ankh-Morpork's airmail equivalent.
    • This is working. However, the Ankh-Morpork Post Office absolutely insists that if the Pegasus Service pilots, all Air Witches, are to be used to deliver mail, then they must also pass the ordeal known as The Postman's Walk. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Germanic Efficiency: Sergeant Hanna von Strafenburg, who brings a certain German-ness to her work as a Witch and, crucially, to the Ankh-Morpork City Air Watch. Hanna is, as a flying Witch, a one-woman Luftwaffe, the essential military glue that binds a Mildly Military operation, and has a "Vorchsprung durch Teknik" approach to making things fly. Anything short of perfect efficiency is anathema to her. Any broomstick she flies will be fine-tuned and Magitek-engineered to within a centimetre of its life. She is based heavily on people like German test pilot Hanna Reitch, and the lesser-known Melitta von Stauffenburg, who also test-flew the Luftwaffe's crazier prototypes in WW2.
    • Even Hanna's Navigating Feegle, under her influence, has become more Germanic. Wee Henry, a fairly typical Feegle youth to begin with, has become noticably Überwaldean, presses his uniform, salutes impeccably, and speaks a Feeglish which is peppered with Überwaldean expressions and phrases. He is now Wee Heinrich to his fellows.
  • Giant Flyer: After coming to an Arrangement with the God of Evolution, Olga orders six Osibisi.note  These are super-heavy flying elephants, which are borne aloft on scaled-up Pegasus wings. Hanna von Strafenburg remarks that with the standard fighting castle strapped to their backs and lots of repeating crossbows, the Air Watch now has Flying Fortresses. The Osibisi become the nucleus of the spectacular Heavy Squadron.
    • The third Air Watch story arc - in progress as of Nov 2022 - deals with an Überwaldean nobleman who has learn about hot-air balloons but believes he can go one step further and make them bigger and better by using lighter-than-air gases and a propulsive mechanism. Olga has to evolve a strategy for dealing with the Count von Bleibaloon and his prototype Luftschiffs
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: this is played out at one step removed by cousins Olga and Natasha Romanoff.
  • Haggis Is Horrible: This tale has expanded on the canonical idea of the Klatchian Sheep's Eye - basically, a disgusting foodstuff deliberately offered to a visitor, with a totally straight face, in the expectation that it cannot be refused out of politeness. The locals then gain a moment of mirth at the expense of the hapless visitor. He argues every Discworld country does this to naive visitors. In The Price of Flight, a novice pilot sent to the Discworld's "Scandinavia" gets the learning opportunity to politely decline hakarl in Island, lutefisk in the Skaggeraks, and surstrommong in Hubsvensska. She then gets offered salmiakki and mammi in Swommi.
  • Hand Signals: A young novice Air Witch, recruited to the City Air Watch, looks down from above at the ground staff, all Dwarfs, who will run out into the landing circle and perform what looks like a complicated random ballet with coloured ping-pong bats. She speculates this might be some powerful magic leaking into the Discworld from Somewhere Else. note 
  • High-Altitude Battle: An early lesson from mock-dogfighting is that the pilot who gets highest tends to win the battle. Civilian witches tend to go no higher than maybe five hundred feet in normal flight. Olga teaches her witches to think in terms of at least five thousand feet, ideally higher. The first air battle with the Gentry begins with the Air witches going high and then crashing on the target from above.
    • One Air Witch holds the altitude record of fifteen thousand feet. She remarked that it gets cold up there, the bristles begin to ice up, and the air gets thinner and your thoughts get slower, and you have a sensation various Sky Goddesses are looking at you, and asking who is this mere human who is trying to come up to our level.
  • Instant Birth: Just Add Labour!: These stories follow the Discworld canon closely by accepting midwifery is one of the biggest single reasons for Witches and takes up a lot of their time. Even - and possibly especially - the Air Watch accept they are Ankh-Morpork's flying emergency midwives, if the expectant mother can't get to the Lady Sybil, or if a midwife from the hospital cannot get to the mother in time, or if there are no civilian witches available at street level. Before the advent of Omnicon communicators, it was not unusual for a ground Watchman to run into the street and start to frantically signal upwards to attract the attention of an Air Watch patrol witch. These days, Omnicon communications mean an Air Witch can report back to base that she'll be tied up for an indefinite period, and Control can get a reserve flier up to cover the beat.
  • Instant Ice: Just Add Cold!: When Hanna von Strafenburg chooses to use magic, this is her expertise. A spell she has devised is the ''kohlendioxidfeurlöscher" - she can supress extreme heat and flame, such as that of a critically blazing crashed broomstick, by calling dry ice into being to smother the heat and fire.
  • Lowered Recruiting Standards: The Witches of a largely all-female service believe that expanding the Air Watch by accepting a draft of newly-graduated Wizards is exactly this. Even Olga Romanoff has sympathy for this point of view, and only reluctantly consents to take them after Lord Vetinari insists.
  • Magitek: Broomstick and flight technomancy lives at the intersection between magic and technology. The Air Watch believes in pushing the frontiers of both further and higher.
  • Military Academy: The Air Watch now sponsors apprentice Witches, at any time perhaps six girls of thirteen and fourteen who have had a couple of years' training on the circuit in Lancre but who have an aptitude for flying, or else have been adopted by Pegasi. By arrangement with the Lancre Witches, they have been brought to the City and divide their week between regular Witch training, albeit on the urban City circuit, and with specialised flying training delivered by the Air Watch. While on Watch training the Air Cadets (informally, the Fledgelings) wear uniform and are subject to Watch discipline; but this is at best only Mildly Military.
  • Mind Rape: The deposed Queen of the Elves, under the supervision of Tiffany Aching, gives the Air Watch pilots a taste of what Elves can do once they get inside a person's mind. Olga sees herself elevated to Tsarina of a reunited Rodinia, with Elven assistance - and then sees it all crumbling into death and ruin, with herself, now a tyrant modelled after Joseph Stalin, sitting in the ruins and dying a lonely unmourned death. The elven voice in her head tells her she was too weak and stupid to make it work. After a taste of Hell, the Air Witches all vow to get out there and get them.
  • Mission Control: The introduction of the Omnicon system provides each Air Witch with a compact Magitek-driven communicator allowing them to be co-ordinated and directed from a central control station, where the senior Air Witches take it in turns to be the Communications Officer. Marina Raskova, who resigned from the Air Watch after the Lancre war because she was tired of fighting and killing, and frankly terrified of being killed herself, is recalled to duty. She returned to active service with great reluctance, but discovered she loves the role of Air Traffic Controller.
  • Monster Mash: The Ankh-Morpork City Air Watch is mainly composed of Witches with a passion for flight who mainly fly high-Magitek-enhanced broomsticks. They also boast Pegasi and a Heavy Squadron of flying elephants. Associate members of the Air Watch include pilots who can fly without needing a broomstick — a vampire and a banshee. The second, Syrrit-conflict, arc of the story concludes with their getting unit mascots to take on parade — a flying sheep and, inevitably, an air-capable K'holli dog.
  • Mother Russia Makes You Strong: Olga and Irena are from the Discworld's Expy of Russia. They very soon draw in other Rodinian witches who have the same background and resilience to arduous flying, extremes of heat and cold and where called for, a ruthless fighting streak. Rodinian soon becomes the lingua franca of the Air Watch.
  • Mugging the Monster: With the Air Watch co-ordinating the response via their comms system, the ground Watchnote  set up a sting to catch predators who are targeting young girls. In the targeted part of town, a confused and lost young girl who has lost her way by night is wandering, confused, friendless and alone. She is clearly a recent immigrant note  with no local connections. The Watch are covertly observing to see who responds and what their motivations are. When the suspects strike, they discover the frail twelve-year-old girl is actually a Banshee. And this is the start of their woes. note 
  • Multinational Team: Captain Olga Romanoff muses on the multi-national nature of the Air Watch. The biggest single (non-Morporkian) nationality and ethnicity is her own Rodinian. There are also Überwaldean, Borogravian; one Agatean; a Swommi; one each from Fourecks, the Foggy Islands, the Untied States of Aceria, and Rimwards Howondaland. note  After a necessary Retcon, one originally Rodinian pilot has now been rewritten as a Zaphorotzhian. In the latest chapter (June 2023) she has a small but significant difference of opinion with a Rodinian, just to make a necessary distinction.
  • Noblewoman's Laugh: When Witch-pilots of the Air Watch are on a training course in the Chirm mountains. Their Uberwaldean training sergeant, who when not in uniform is the Countess Hannelore von Strafenburg, responds this way to an innocent request about facilities:.
    If you ask me where you can wash, I will be inclined to laugh in a slightly mocking sort of way, and point out that, on active service, opportunities to wash and cleanse are infrequent, and you will have to learn to live with it. Be thankful that tomorrow night, you will be back in Ankh-Morpork. That is all, we have had a good day of training, gute nacht, I will see you in the morning."
  • The Nondescript: It is the fate of young trainee Witch Jane Smith to be this - although she's bright and capable and gets on with the job, she's also the anonymous one in the background behind the main characters, who everybody else struggles to remember afterwards. Even her name - Jane Smith - is as anonymous as you can possibly get. As the stories develop, it is just possible that this will turn out to be a sort of magic in itself and a Witch skill.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: During the Lancre fighting, people on the ground are absolutely adamant that if an Air Witch is shot down, they will find her and rescue her. Or at the very least, they will bring the body back. Olga Romanoff and Kiiki Pekisaalen, who had to crash-land when the power cut out on their broomsticks during an air battle, are appreciative of this.
    • And when strained relationships between Ankh-Morpork and Klatch spill over into what was afterwards called "a regrettable misunderstanding", a Pegasus and three Air Watch members are believed to have been shot down by a surprise attack over a remote part of the Klatchian continent. Lieutenant Irena Politek is boiling with rage and sets up a rescue mission to retrieve two Air Witches and a Feegle. This will carry maximum firepower, just to make the point to the Klatchian Air Force. Sam Vimes, Lord Vetinari and to a lesser extent, Captain Olga Romanoff, make this into a Restricted Rescue Operation.
  • Nose Art: Each Pegasus pilot is allowed to personalise her mount. not with anything painted or tattooed onto the animal itself, as this would be cruel. The large flat-fronted forward panniers carried ahead of the saddle, however, can be personalised on their outer faces with artwork specific to the pilot, and all the pilots of the Pegasus Service elect to carry their own distinctions here, subject to Olga Romanoff's approval.
  • Old Soldier: In a youth-oriented Service where (if she wasn't there), the average age of a pilot would be around eighteen or nineteen, Nadezhda Popova stands out. She's forty-three. The oldest pilot in the Service, she has transferred from fast single-seat fighter brooms to command the Heavy Squadron. The rest of the Air Watch calls her "Mother Hen" and treats her with great respect.
  • Overly Long Name: Her Grace Countess (or Baroness) Olga Anastacia Ekatarinovnya de Kokamainje-Romanoff. A Running Gag has Commander Sam Vimes deploring the sheer length of full Rodinian names, as flying is a dangerous profession, pilots occassionally get killed, he then has to pay for a stonemason to add these names to the memorial plaque - in two alphabets, Olga - and don't you know they charge by the letter plus a call-out fee with extra for Ольга Анастасия Екатерина учення де Кокатайне-Романофья in Cyrillic? Why can't you recruit grirls with nice short names, like Jane Smith? note 
  • Playing with Fire: fireballs are a primary weapon in air combat. The Air Watch maintains a forward training centre in the desolate Chirm Mountains, made even more desolate by the Air Witches using it as a firing and bombing range.
  • Police Pig: The Air Watch is made up of Witches with a passion for flight, who provide Sam Vimes with an aerial dimension. Aware of the derogatory nickname, the Air Witches have claimed N-Word Privileges for themselves and their unit badge depicts a pig in a pointy hat astride a broomstick. Of course, any civilian referring to Flying Pigs might still get a taster of Watch brutality.
  • The Radio Dies First: An Air Watch flight arriving in central Klatch comes under sustained attack from the Klatchian Air Force. To avert any possibility that the two pilots can get a distress signal home, the first Klatchian attack is a magic spell designed to destroy their communicators, and to leave them unable to call for help.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica:
    • Count Semyon Romanoff, initially posted as a diplomat to Ankh-Morpork, takes advantage of his relative freedom to contact dissident groups intent on overthrowing Prince Heinrich of Zlobenia as the first step towards dissolving Zlobenia and rebuilding a new Rodinia. As Semyon is a Zlobenian, this might be called ''disloyal'. it is hinted that Vetinari has reminded Prince Heinrich that their interests coincide here - neither wants to see the current status quo dissolved. What might have been a brief courtesy visit from an Assassin becomes a posting to Syrrit.note  When the Pegasus Service runs into trouble ferrying him there, an international crisis begins.
    • Similarly, when Sam Vimes takes a draft of militsya from faraway Blondograd, so as to train them to Ankh-Morporkian standards of policing, one of their number is Sergeant Valentina Tereschova, who is placed on attachment to the Air Watch who desperately need experienced NCO's. A Rodinian police sergeant, the thinking went, would be an ideal link in the chain of command. The reasons for her exile, and the fact the Blondograd cops are in no hurry to ask for her back, starts to become apparent when she addresses her seniors in the Air Police as "Comrade Lieutenant" and "Comrade Captain". The Comrade Lieutenant (Irena) is pretty chuffed. The Comrade Captain (Lady Olga Romanoff) has to take a deep breath. Blondograd is keen to move a capable and organisationally-minded revolutionary out of the way. Vetinari has agreed to keep an eye on her, and to keep her occupied with useful and important work.
  • Retcon: some examples.
    • Discworld "Russians" and all things Russian-ish began under the simple heading of Rus. Word of God is that this was a bit uninspired and needed more thought. Rodina or Rodinia, the semi-mystical concept of the Russian homeland and national ethos of "Mother Russia", supplanted it as better fitting.
    • Also, as the author grapples with learning more Russian, the sort of clonking errors detailed on this site under Glorious Mother Russia are being identified and corrected. "Svetlanovichniya", for instance, is being replaced by the more correct matronymic Svetlanovna, and the initial misperception about the name "Politek" - as a woman she should have been "Politeka" from the outset - has been acknowledged. There are other little things - "govno" is a good word. But the author has (reluctantly) realised this is a loan-word from outside, and isn't even in the top ten Russian words for "Shit!" This is being addressed. Also, "Grigorenko" is a Ukrainian and not a Russian name;note  and the author is learning all the subtleties of words like "nichevo", "khorosho" and "davaii". He also asks Russian-speaking readers to help out here. Spassibo.
    • Irena Politek ceasing to be a "Czech" - the author says he didn't know how to properly pull this one off and suspecting that for English-speaking readers, the Czech identity might be a little too obscure for reader accessibility.note . Irena then became a Rodinian and a spiky and attitudinal peasant-born foil to the aristocratic Olga, the Nanny Ogg to her Granny Weatherwax.
    • The little matter of Irena's Pegasus. Rule of Funny suggested to the author that two majestic flying horses should be named after characters from My Little Pony. Olga's mount duly became Raduga Desh - Rainbow Dash. slapdash research suggested "Cupcakes" as a suitable pony name. The author, not being greatly into MLP-FIM, shrugged and thought "that'll do". Reader feedback suuggested this was not quite the most appropriate choice. After discovering the true nature of "Cupcakes", Pessimal agreed. Irena's Pegasus is now Pryaniki, which is apparently a generic word for small sweet cakes served with Russian tea. This may change again: a Russian-speaking reader suggested Vatruschka, another sort of Russian tea cake.
    • Nadezhda Popova's Code Name was translated into approximate Russian as "Mother Hen". Apparently a far better Russian idiom exists for the concept of "older woman with a maternal side and motherly instincts towards young girls", which is наседка, Nasedka. It's also shorter than Mat'kuritsa.
  • Russian Fashion: After long experience of flying at altitude in winter, seasonal flying kit for the Air Watch now involves things like the vatrik, the padded winter overclothes, valenki felt overboots, a big comfortable shuba coat that can practically stand up on its own, and of course the ubiquitous ushanka fur hat with the pull-down ear flaps. Sam Vimes accepts this, noting the Watch badge is completely visible in the front crown of the ushanka and clearly identifies its wearer as a watchman.
  • Sandbag Funeral: One pilot-witch is killed over the Chalk in a friendly-fire incident when a careless fireball, aimed at a Shining One hits her broomstick. One of the old men of the Home Guard discreetly tells Olga about what happened when old Chalky White got hit by a blast from a Klatchian Fire Engine fifty year ago, ma'am. We had to, er, pack out the coffin a bit, ma'am, so it weighed right. Olga gives orders for sandbags to be filled.
  • Sapient Steed: The Pegasi of the Air Watch, especially the very first two who were born of magic, are described as having rather more intelligence than the average wingless horse, and are capable of communicating in more abstract ways with their mistresses. Olga's Raduga Desh, for instance, knows to bownote  to enable somebody getting on to the pillion who has never before been on a horse of any kind in her life.
  • Serial Killer Baiting: the Ankh-Morpork City Watch set up a sting to catch predators who are targeting young girls. In the targeted part of town, a confused and lost young girl who has lost her way by night is wandering, confused, friendless and alone. She is clearly a recent immigrant with no local connections. The Watch are covertly observing to see who responds and what their motivations are. When the suspects strike, they discover the frail twelve-year-old girl is actually a Banshee. And this is the start of their woes.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Zlobenia's highest medal distinction is called The Blue Riband Order of Crown Prince Maximilian. Olga wins one.
    • The best ambush pilot in the Air Watch is a Swommi. She has the callsign Belaya Smert, or White Death.
    • Überwaldean pilot-witch Hanna von Strafenburg has a magical affinity to ice, snow and cold. She uses this magical skill to attack the Shining Ones in their own realm, turning their own land against them for just long enough. She generates an army of snowmen to hinder, blunt and break up an Elven army poised to break out through the Stones. The effort of channelling so much magic very nearly kills her, but the Elven army is indeed blunted and disrupted.
    • Captain Olga Romanoff, aware she is running what is at most a Mildly Military operation involving quirky, independently-minded and above all exceptional people with Talents and Abilities, is careful to make necessary discipline into something which is flexible and intelligently applied rather than by-the-manual tough. Readers have likened her to Colonel Maxima in Grrl Power, a woman in charge of superheroines. Word of God is that there is truth in this.
    • The one Rimwards Howondalandian pilot in the Air Watch is affectionately nick-named Die Liewe Heksie by family members. (One who is even called Livinia).
    • The Acerian pilot in the Air Watch names her Pegasus Zemphis Al. the distinguishing art carried on her mount's heraldry is a scantily dressed cheesecake male. When pressed, Amelia Cronkhart reluctantly admits this is an idealisation of what she thinks her Pegasus stallion might look like as a human male.
      • The Five-Eighty-Eight club encompassing the most experienced Air Witches is also a nod to Amelia Earhart, who founded The Ninety-Nine Club for female pilots.
    • Lady Natasha Romanoff, Olga's cousin, is a stylishly black-clad Licenced Assassin.
    • Osibisa were a West African band based in London who married African traditional music to European jazz/rock. Their band logo - inspired by a racist music executive who sniffily said African music was as likely to sell as an elephant is to grow wings and fly - was a flying elephant. And in the Discworld's Howondaland there are indeed flying elephants - Osibisi. note 
    • To Derek Robinson's novels of WW1 and WW2 air combat, with the odd subverted hint of Biggles.
    • The attitude of the Royal Ankh-Morporkian Navy to any sort of naval aviation reflects the attitudes and prejudices of older Royal Navy officers to the Fleet Air Arm, as expressed in the tragicomic novel HMS Leviathan. Pilots are seen as a sort of active hindrance to the smooth running of any sort of ship, up to and including an aircraft carrier.
    • The Running Gag in the canonical novels - that all the Watch could think to ask for as a reward for exceptional service was a new dartboard - is developed here. Olga refers to a reward for exemplary service, for her command, as "a dartboard". Vetinari knows she means "you will pay each of my girls a big cash bonus". He chooses to grant them a military standard, recognising his Air Force as an Arm of Service every bit as distinct and important, in this modern age, as an Army or Navy. The Air Watch Standard is largely sky-blue and carries the motif of concentric circles in blue, white and red - Vetinari explains that this conferred Dartboard is the target all other Air Forces around the Disc should aspire to hit, if they wish to equal the best. Underneath is the motto per Ardua ad Arduam - "Through hardship to even more hardship".
    • Olga agrees with Zoo director Johanna Smith-Rhodes that "when you weigh four tons, it's hard to be an inconspicuous secret weapon".
    • Olga affects a Bun Of Steel hairstyle, using this sparingly as a deadly weapon for when she needs instant deference and respect.
    • If a soundtrack is ever devised, Sabaton's Night Witches and the Blue Öyster Cult's ME262= will be in there. Both songs are referenced, as are Russian anthems by such as Otava Yo.
  • State Visit: Lord Vetinari uses State Visits as undeclared weapons. Any foreign Head of State invited to Ankh-Morpork is shown every hospitality, and every courtesy. The story sees Prince Heinrich of Zlobenia making an official visit just after a difficult international situation is resolved. Given place of honour at a march-past of selected Ankh-Morporkian military units, he cannot help but notice that a signiciant part of the strength of the Air Watch is made up of Rodinian Zlobenians. He even gets to award the highest Zlobenian medal to its commanding officer. Face to face, he gets the sinking realisation that this woman, currently in Vetinari's service, could well overthrow him as ruler. Which is the exact point Vetinari wants to make. Meanwhile, Rodinian nationalists who are making up a large and noisy part of the street crowd get to see their potential leader forced to bow the head to the despised Heinrich. Which is the other point Vetinari wants to make.
  • Swivel-Chair Antics: The Ankh-Morpork City Air Watch play darts in their unique way. the dartboard itself is magically enchanted so that it moves on the wall in a random and unpredictable way. The Air Witches compound the difficulty by sitting in a moving swivel chair - so that the pilot is throwing her darts from a moving platform at a moving target. This is defended on the grounds that it improves aim and targetting and simulates actual air combat. Sam Vimes suspects it's because the Air Watch pilots are, to a woman, crazy. And the Swommi pilot who devised this is craziest of all.
  • Title Drop: The Price Of Flight can be, variably, accepting the challenge of mastering any flying Device you are confronted with. It is also accepting that flying is inherently a dangerous profession and that one day, even without anybody else actively trying to kill you, you could die up there if things go wrong. Olga also realises her own personal price of flight is that, even though it confers enormous privileges, normal family life with her husband and two children can be inevitably disrupted by the irregular hours.
  • Tragic Ice Character: Hanna von Strafenburg is first introduced as an isolated, lonely, girl trapped by her nobility and desperately longing for a normal life. Things improve when she goes to Lancre to train as a witch. She discovers her magical affinity is with ice, snow and cold; she can throw a standard fireball if she has to, but her preferred magical weapon is the complete opposite: a short intense blast of extreme cold not much above absolute zero.
  • Trial by Combat: As Pegasus Service messengers Rebecka Smith-Rhodes and Alexandra Mumorovka discover, in the remote Discworld nation of Island, Trial By Combat is considered an innovative and modern method of settling disputes. As Witches, they are sworn into the legal process and attend court as Expert Witnesses.
    We used to do Trial by Ordeal, but that's considered a bit old-fashioned now, and a bit cruel, to be honest.
  • Unequal Rites: The Air Witches muddy the distinction between witchcraft and wizardry. They have an affinity with technomancy, theoretical magic and the mechanics of flying spells which is more the province of Wizards than of the regular Witch. Also, the draft of Wizards brought in and given gruelling training to weed out the ones who are temperamentally unsuited to the Air Watch are being trained to see things more from a witch's point of view, as intuitive and of the heart. It is possible a new unisex sort of magic is beginning to emerge that blends the best of both approaches.
  • Vestigial Empire: As with the former Ankh-Morporkian Empire, the spread of old Rodinia, once an imperial rival, is now vastly diminished. The Four Duchies which are now part of Zlobenia are the respective seats of four brothers, the closest claimants to the dormant Tsarate. Blondograd, the former Imperial Capital on the River Musckovada note  is now just another city in Far Überwald and under the rule of Lady Margolotta. Wide-ranging Cossack tribes are spread as far as the Vortex Plains, the Vulga Steppes, the Great Moldavian Lake and Kazackstan, a land bordering on Klatch and Muntab. There are the two detached enclaves on the Disc, geographically most remote of all, where Rodinians are a majority: Nobinovgorod note  and Bloodibostock. As with all other hopeful migrant groups, Ankh-Morpork itself now has a substantial ethnic community of Rodinians. Who look to Lady Olga Romanoff and her cousin Lady Natasha Romanoff as their social leaders.
  • Visions of Another Self: The walls between the worlds grow thinner, especially when Discworld witches are attuned to a place somewhere else called Russia, where fellow pilots are going through times of high emotional stress. Olga, Irena and others from the Discworld's Rodinia find their dreams take them to the skies above somewhere called Russia, fighting in various wars. The common theme, the Witches agree when comparing notes, is that they invariably die in these dreams. Or else somebody is dying in those dreams.
  • War Elephants: opinion is divided as to whether the Osibisi would ever be used in combat. Even though they carry the standard fighting towers and multiple repeating crossbows (purely for self-defence only) and are referred to as The Flying Fortresses.
  • War Is Hell: In the second story arc, Captain Olga Romanoff sternly admonishes her pilots about their enthusiasm concerning the possibility of an air war with Klatch. With the experience of one all-out air war behind her, she tells the new pilots what it was like to be constantly fighting The Fair Folk in the air and on the ground for a week. She emphasises the lack of sleep, impossibility of getting much more than a cursory wash, the constant vigilance, and the death of comrades she will never see again.
  • Wastebasket Ball: Olga tries to do this with a whole newspaper after reading a negative article by an opinion columnist, accusing her of staffing the Air Watch with Rodinians of doubtful loyalty to Ankh-Morpork. She misses. Prompting a remark from Irena Politek about her aim being off.
  • When Are You Coming Home, Mum? : Olga gets this from her children during the Klatchian crisis. This and the need to find reliable childcare makes her feel very guilty.
  • Wingman: Olga and Irena make it clear that everybody at sometime or another in air combat is somebody else's wingman, without exception. You might be the highest-scoring pilot in air combat or you might be the newesr recruit. But everybody watches everybody else's back.
  • Witch Classic: Olga absolutely insists all members of her command also put in time, once or twice a month, working as normal everyday Steading witches, to keep their basic nuts-and-bolts Witch skills sharp and most importantly, so that they do not forget they are Witches. The Watch Steading covers all of Ankh-Morpork and is there as a service to Watchmen or their family members who need to consult a Witch about, well, the usual range of things. The girls take it in turns on a rota basis and the Watch Steading, housed in a basement at Pseudopolis Yard next to Igor's laboratory, offers constant cover for this purpose.
  • Wizarding School: It is fast becoming a norm for girls with an aptitude for witchcraft to attend conventional schools first, or at least till around age thirteen or fourteen, before coming to Lancre to train as Witches. Miss Perspicacia Tick is a "consultant teacher" who advises on the practicalities of this with institutions such as the Quirm College for Girls, or the Convent School of Seven-Handed Sek. Olga Romanoff, a senior Witch in Ankh-Morpork, is known to be concerned that post-primary education for young Witches is scrappy and patchy, and wants her Air Watch cadets to be acceptably literate in things like science and technology as well as magic. She has therefore persuaded Sam Vimes to pay for a Watch Education Officer, a suitably experienced teacher who takes the Fledgelings several times a week to ensure they get some sort of classroom education.
  • Wrench Wenches: Olga and Irena, right from their earliest appearances, take great interest in what makes a broomstick go, and even right at the start as apprentices in Lancre, went back to first principles with regard to fine-tuning and customising their brooms.