|Survey Says: Vetinari's Perfect Wife
Author: Kim Hoppy PM
Everyone knows Lord Vetinari is single, and, with the Times' help, while William de Word is away, Ankh-Morpork and the rest of the Disc decides what they think Vetinari's wife should be.Rated: Fiction K - English - Humor - Chapters: 2 - Words: 10,451 - Reviews: 36 - Favs: 14 - Follows: 4 - Updated: 12-26-02 - Published: 12-08-02 - Status: Complete - id: 1111349
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Discworld and all adjoining characters are © Terry Pratchett and are used without permission. No disrespect is intended in the use of characters or writing of the story.]
I actually had no intention of carrying this idea on, but it just hit me. This chapter, in my opinion, could be a lot better, but until the happy day when I rewrite, enjoy and read at your own warning.
Also, I know the footnotes are annoying. I'd make them as links, but doesn't accept that anymore.
Also, Happy Holidays!
Survey Says: Vetinari's Perfect Wife
Part 2: Million-to-One
By, Kim Hoppy
"The entire city expects me to marry a woman who, judging by your statistics that are even authenticated by the Guild of Accountants, very likely does not exist outside of imagination."
"Yes, it is a million-to-one chance that she actually exists, your lordship," William agreed quickly.
The Patrician's head snapped up. "I should certainly hope not!"
"When you really need them the most," he [Sgt. Colon] said, "million-to-one chances always crop up. Well-known fact."
[Carrot] ". . . well, the gods wouldn't let it be any other way. They wouldn't."
It was night.
In anywhere other than Ankh-Morpork, it would have been seen as a very nice, special kind of night. It was the kind of night where something special was going to happen. Stars twinkled above the smog, foreseeing destiny and happiness. Little night birds that should know better twitted cutely, and then were promptly eaten by smarter creatures that certainly could triangulate an easy meal. The minuscule percent of the air that wasn't smog was fresh and clear, as opposed to the usual staleness, due to a strange mountain breeze.
Newspapers still littered the streets of Ankh-Morpork, at least the portions that no one wanted to read. It was an on-going punishment for two young copy boys to pick up the papers and destroy them. They weren't quite sure why and grumbled about the unfairness in general, for their pay certainly hadn't gone up even a smidgen, and it had taken several hours of yelling by those brave enough to stick up for them that the pay hadn't been docked.
"He's been back a week. You'd think he'd stop glaring at us," one of them said lowly.
"Don't know why he is," the other agreed. "Didn't do nothing wrong."
"Sold more Times in a week than he did his entire career." Olsen waved some soggy newspapers as proof. "Think that'd count for something."
"Bet he's jealous."
The two were quiet for a bit, musing on the fact that their boss was jealous of their talents and making them do jobs like this because of it.
"You know something . . . " Olsen started carefully.
"I bet we even helped the Patrician." Parker nodded slowly, although he was unsure why or how they had helped the Patrician. His friend read the puzzlement. "I mean, he now knows that the entire city likes his . . . his um . . ."
"Girlfriend?" Parker suggested.
There was a snort. "Don't be silly. Lords don't have girlfriends. They have . . . they have them things you have at birth."
"No. Bee troths. Don't you know anything?"
"I didn't have a bee troth at my birth," Parker said skeptically.
"Cuz you're not a lord."
"Actually, I think it's because I'm allergic to bees. And spiders. And what do bee troths have to do with—"
"That's what they have," Olsen continued loudly. "Them or affairs."
"Yeah. They have a lot of affairs of state."
"See. Well, it stands to reason that the whole reason that the Patrician didn't let the rest of us know that he was . . . that he was seeing someone was because he was afraid of us not liking her."
There was a pause.
"I don't think the Patrician would be afraid of us. We're picking up old newspapers." Parker made a point to glare at Olsen, who seemed to be doing less than his fair share of clean up.
There was an exasperated sigh. "Not us us. The whole city."
"Why would he care if the city didn't like her? The city doesn't like him."
"Women is different. You know that. You tried to punched Victor when he said something about Merri Jane. Got your head shoved down the privy, but you tried. And you knew better."
"No better than you, fawning over that Clara!" Parker snapped angrily "Haven't got a chance with her, you know."
"Oh, shut up! The point is . . . the point is that if we don't take dissing of our girls, the Patrician isn't gonna either."
"Yeah, but he could hang people over the scorpion pit."
"Not the whole city."
"Wouldn't take the whole city. Sides, he said he wasn't ready to get married. Can't blame him. I don't want to get married, and everyone knows he hates people."
"Really? I didn't know that."
"Well, not hate," Parker conceded. "Probably more like dislikes anyone he meets."
"Good thing we never met him then," Olsen muttered silently. "He probably doesn't want the fuss everyone would make. He is very private."
"Yeah. And you're right. It's obvious the Patrician is glad we did what we did, cuz now he knows we like his bird."
"Thought he had a dog."
"But see, makes perfect sense. I think you should tell William."
"Why don't you tell William?"
There are several good arguments to witness in the universe. This wasn't one of them. This was one of those pointless circle arguments, whose whole point was to try and scrounge up pity laughs.
This argument didn't even get that. And it wasn't because it ended prematurely because of the carriage that almost ran them down.
"Hey! Learn how to drive!" Parker yelled from under damp newspapers. (It was wise not to think about what they were damp with, or to try and breath through your nose.)
"We'll report you to the Watch!" Olsen added, standing up and wiping himself off.
"Yeah! Commander Vimes, he'll . . . he's a friend of ours, and he'll—Oh, god! It's stopping!"
Parker and Olsen were both veterans when it came to yelling idle threats and insults to retreating backs, and then what would happen if the retreating backs stopped being retreating. Of course, with all their practice, neither had truly mastered the fine art of running away, for multiple reasons. One was that, oddly enough, after running away and then getting caught, it usually hurt more. The other was that they really weren't good thinkers in a panic.
They stood shakings as the figure rushed towards them. "Oh, my gosh! I'm so sorry! Are you both all right?"
The boys gaped at the woman in front of them, synapses firing. And then both, as one mind, screamed and ran away, slipping on the newspapers.
The woman blinked and took a step back as the two retreated. "Oh, my. I wonder what got into them."
Three streets, seven blocks, and fifteen pails filled with miscellaneous fillings, Parker and Olsen ceased running.
"Did . . . did you see who that was?!" Parker gasped, clutching his knees.
"It was her!"
"Mrs. De Word said that she wasn't coming back here for a long, long time!"
"Obviously she was wrong!"
Both were quiet, gasping for breath and thinking.
"Why did we run away?" Olsen asked after a moment.
Parker merely shrugged helplessly. It had seemed like a very good idea at the time, and if that woman had managed to get a good look at their faces, who knew what trouble they could have been in. They almost damaged her carriage by getting run over by it. Who knew how the Patrician would take that?
The copy boy bet probably not well, or nicely.
"Do you think we should tell someone?" Olsen asked, continuing on his silent list of questions.
Olsen nodded. "Yeah. It is our job."
"But William said we couldn't touch the press anymore," Parker reminded quietly, kicking a vague newspaper away.
"We won't touch it! We'll tell the dwarves!"
"And they'll print it up."
Pleased with the idea, both started towards the Times' office.
"You know," Olsen started. "I bet the whole reason William was upset was because he knew that she wasn't here!"
"Makes sense. Everyone's gonna want to meet her now, and since she wasn't here before, no one could. Now she's here and everyone can meet her. Telling everyone before would have just made everyone unhappy."
"But why would she come back here? Mrs. De Word said she—"
Olsen looked at his friend. "Why do you think she'd come back to Ankh-Morpork?"
"To visit her family?"
"No, idiot. To marry to Patrician."
"But he said he wasn't ready to get married."
"Because she wasn't here. And face it, he's not getting any younger."
Parker took a careful step away from his friend, just in case anything terrible was going to happen because of that statement.
"So I bet she came to ready for her wedding. Weddings are hard to get ready, you know."
"And the Patrician's got to have a big one, since everyone's got to get invited," Parker added.
"I hope William went home early," Olsen said carefully, as the Times' office appeared. Despite their brilliant plan and new understanding of William's motives, both had a feeling reporter would still throw a wrench into the works.
"Yeah. He'd yell at us for not picking up the papers."
Luckily, a simple, quick, and subtle head-height peak showed William was not present in the office, and the two quickly dashed over to Gunilla. The dwarf listened attentively as they informed him of the findings.
"So you met this woman?" he said carefully. Unlike the two humans, the dwarf knew very well that this woman was not in any way, shape, or form a possible wife to the Patrician, unless the leader of city happened to have a very secret and coincidental life, or human relationships had changed drastically within the last ten minutes.
The two nodded.
"And she actually said this?" The dwarf reasoned that if the woman had actually said it, there could be a possible claim that William would most likely disagree to.
"Well, no, not actually," Parker admitted. "We didn't really talk."
"But who else could it be?"
"Are you gonna print it up?" Olsen asked hopefully.
Goodmountain looked at the hopefuls. In any especially picky eye he could be partly blamed for the two's trouble. And, in a certain regard, he did owe them. However, there was the whole matter of William to worry about . . .
"We need two more inches and this issues out," a dwarf called out.
Well, that sealed it!
"Set type that there was a woman seen matching the survey's description," Goodmountain called out. "Olsen and Parker'll give you the details."
The boys' eyes lit up and rushed over.
"What's her name?" the dwarf asked.
The two looked at each other. "Prolly something like Lucretia, or Chandra, or Addolorata," Olsen hazarded. "She looked like a woman with those types of names."
"Yeah, or maybe Victoria or Alice?"
The dwarf looked up at them. "You didn't get her name?" He sighed at the mutual, shameful shakes. "How about her age?"
Actually, the woman in question's name was not Lucretia or Chandra or Addolorata or Victoria or Alice, although she had wished several times that her name could have been Alice. She liked the name Alice, would have even settled for being related to someone named Alice. Alice, it was a very nice name. Alice.
No, her name was Sarah. At least it had the 'h', she sympathized with herself. It could have been worse. There were bound to be plainer names than Sarah, although Sarah really couldn't think of any.
Sarah stepped out of the carriage, paid the driver, and went inside her parents' home. A few relaxing days with her family. It was going to be nice, Sarah rather thought.
As William made his way to the Times office, he bought one of the papers, very pleased to note the large group of citizens waiting to buy one several discussing an articles, and the many hands that held the paper. Briefly he wondered why the paper was so popular today, but then remembered that it was the Times. Of course everyone was going to want to buy it. It was natural.
He read the headlines as he walked. Sacharissa had to attend a small meeting of Knife-Throwers, so she was quite certain a great, cutting article was going to develop from it.
After reading in a few pages, William's heart caught in his throat.
Woman Fits Survey Description Sawed by 2 Times Employes
He barely noted there was no mention of which survey, or which Times article the survey it had been in. There really didn't need to be, everyone would know which one, but . . . but, it was bad Journalism.
The Survey . . . he never wanted it mentioned again, every time it was he had to go have a lie down. It was just a really bad dream, bad dream, bad dream. Oh, gods.
His hands shook.
He didn't even have two read which two employees—he made a note to tell the dwarf in question to work on his spelling a bit more—the article mentioned. When he . . . they were in so much trouble.
"Mr. de Word!"
"Is it true?" He knew the voice, couldn't place the face. The nasty man who sold sausages, what was his name, Cut-Parker-and-Olsen's-Throats?
"What?" William asked, mouth dry.
"That there's gonna be a wedding?" Dibbler asked cheerfully. "Must be, of course, if it's in the Times. Wanna sausage?"
William was shaking his head vaguely, then nodding. "Huh? Wedding?"
"Nice that the Patrician's gonna settle down. Saus—where'd you go?"
William burst in very theatrically. "Where. Are. They?!" he shouted.
Goodmountain looked up. "Grandmothers' funerals, William," he lied.
The reporter gave a very mad little giggle as he slid to the floor. "Funeral. Magic word of the day."
"Are you all right, Villiam?" Otto asked carefully, having been drawn out by William's explosive entrance, after several minutes had passed. The dwarves had been standing nervously.
William looked up and smiled brightly. "Oh, I'm fine. I'm going to my office. When the Patrician's guards come, let me know. Yes. Funeral." He giggled again, hopelessly.
The Times watched him go, and then Otto turned severely on Gunilla. "You really have to stop doing zis to Villiam!"
"Do you know how many Times we sold? Could you get a picture of this girl? In colour?"
"I don't even know where she lives!"
"Just look for the crowd!"
Sarah had herself barricaded in her room, staring wide-eyed at the door. The world had gone mad. There was no other explanation! Her mother and father had been reading some foolish newspaper, she'd come down the stairs, they stared at her like they never saw her before, then started yelling all this nonsense at her. Marrying the Patrician! Of all the nonsense!
A scrapping nose had reached her ears, and Sarah turned to watch as several faces appeared in her window. "Oh, my! It is—"
"Get out of my window!" she screamed, slamming a shoe on the hands and pushing the people away. "Go away, go away! Lemme go!"
"Is it true?"
"Sarah! Sarah! It's me, Violet! Remember!" She slammed the window down and closed the curtains, gasping in panic.
"Sarah, dear, open the door! There's no need to be embarrassed!" The door jerked.
Sarah stood and whimpered, then dived into the closet, covered her ears, closed her eyes, and curled into a ball.
Commander Vimes was really struggling to keep a straight face in the Oblong Office. There were few things that showed that the Patrician was tense or upset, but the Commander could see Vetinari steepling his fingers so hard that it was very likely the fingers would break under the force.
There were few things one couldn't pass up, and Vimes' mouth opened.
"If you say anything remotely unwhimsical about this, Commander, I will make it a point to make your life as challenging as mine currently is," he said lowly, like a snake poised.
Unwhimsical for who? Vimes thought happily, but switched his gears into a different manner. "You wanted to see me, sir?"
"Indeed." Vetinari's tone was sarcastic, and Vimes dimly wondered if the man was going to snap. He rather hoped so. "I think it would be wise for you to go rescue Ms.," he consulted a piece of paper, "Sarah Labra."
His face crinkled, both in puzzlement and trying to remember the name. "From what?"
"The crowd that is currently trying get sight of her."
"Oh, so she's . . ." Vimes caught the look and stopped what he was going to say, clearing his throat. "Right, sir. And then what?"
Vetinari waved a hand vaguely, although the speed suggested he was at least slightly irritated. "You'd better bring her here."
"Commander Vimes, if that smile is not off your face . . ."
"Don't know what you mean, sir."
When Vimes left, Drumknott appeared quickly. "Are you sure this is wise, sir?"
"No. Unfortunately, I can't let the poor girl get torn apart, now can I?" He held his hands.
"So you're going to be alone in your office with this woman?"
Vetinari glared especially furiously. "Don't be a fool! Summon Mr. de Word here. I'm sure he's managed to calm down by now." He took a deep, calming breath. "And remind me to speak with a Mr. Pat Parker and Mr. Dicky Olsen. Arrange some quarters for them. I'm sure they'll be staying for quite some time." He leaned back into his chair, sinking into the shadows. "Quite some time."
With all his history, Lord Vetinari reckoned it was his most dangerous promise, ever.
It had taken over two hours to retract Ms. Sarah Labra from her closet. And then another forty-five minutes into the carriage, in which she ducked away from windows, and then used him as a shield. The woman had a strong smell of walnuts and onions, and, as he tried not to breath too deeply, Vimes made a note to dock Nobby's pay after his comment. The girl obviously did not need the reminder, since her parents were doing quite a bit of it as it was. The Commander wished he could have left them, or dropped them off the bridge.
Vimes remembered her, or at least the family, once he got to the house. The Labras were candlemakers. Very proud. And very poor. They were the sort of parents who spent every spare cent that they didn't have to send their children to prestigious schools, the sort that would deny their state of finance even if it was staring them in the face.
Sarah had been sent to Pseudopolis, had been there for the past fifteen years, continuing to live with friends after her schooling had been done. From what he was able to get out of the girl, she had a very nice job at a flower shop and as a governess when the school year ended.
As much as he enjoyed the torment it was bring to the Patrician, Vimes really had to feel sorry for the girl. The poor thing was just swept up in the whole mess, having the unlikely fortune to look like she did. A simple person might have said her hair was black, but it would have been wrong. Ebony . . . shining ebony. Long and curly, neat, or had once been before the whole fiasco. Until meeting Sarah, Vimes had assumed anyone who said they had violet-colored eyes just didn't want to say "a funny shade of blue," but they eyes were violet. Long lashes. Perhaps if the girl got out more, she wouldn't have that semi-attractive pallor. Maybe if she stooped she wouldn't be so tall. And, hell, if she had been born to richer parents, the city would be so less likely to accept her.
The girl really had bad luck.
There was a crowd at the Palace. While Sarah struggled to dig herself into her seat, the parents preened and waved.
"I never even met the man," she wailed, however in a whisper. She had managed to curl into a ball, even while sitting straight up. "Why's this happening?"
"Eternal bad luck," Vimes tried comfortingly.
"I don't really have to marry him, do I?" Her eyes were wide, a little frightened deer, glancing between her parents and the palace.
Vimes tried to give an encouraging smile, however not too broad. He didn't want her to think he was making fun of her. "Ms. Labra, I'm assure you, the Patrician is doing everything he can to stop this. He wants this to happen even less than you, I believe."
Confusion lined her face.
"Come on. We have to get through this crowd now. Just . . . don't say anything."
"I can't deny it."
"Would you believe it if you were them?"
Terror comes in many forms, and for many people, it was in the form of Lord Havelock Vetinari.
Vimes stood off to the side to let the three people in, grinning broadly when he spied William. The reporter looked even worse than Sarah, pen and paper ready. Vimes had to hand it to the Patrician, making a point to be supervised who would publish the entire conversation.
He wondered what the Patrician had said to the man before they arrived.
"Please, have a seat," Lord Vetinari said lowly, sitting deep in the shadows. "We have much to discuss."
Both Mary and John Labra had stilled their happy boasts, as being in the sudden presence of the city lord tended to do that to most people. Vimes had to give Sarah a friendly nudge before the woman would move, and she whimpered.
"Are we all comfortable? Good," Vetinari continued. There was a scraping at the window. "Commander, please? With any force necessary.
"Now then, we have a predicament."
"We do?" Mrs. Labra asked, then snapped her mouth shut when Vetinari's gaze focused on her.
"Yes, we do, Mrs. Labra."
"Oh, you can call me Mary."
"Of course, Mrs. Labra." His tone suggested that the suggestion wasn't a wise one. His mouth opened.
"We won't be giving you a dowry, you understand," Mr. Labra said quickly.
Vimes' eyebrows went up, and he looked at the man while Sarah cringed. William's quill could be heard dutifully transcribing the conversation.
Mr. Labra tried to meet the gaze, but it didn't quite work. "You shalln't be getting a dowry from us. We don't hold with any of that."
"Why, that's like paying you to take our daughter, you know. Doesn't seem right. We're her parents, after all."
"Positively barbaric," Mrs. Labra added.
"How very progressive and enlightened of you." Vetinari brought his hands together and waited. He knew there was more, just by the shifting the parents were doing. And they were Ankh-Morporkians, who brought up money. He already had a reasonable guess.
After several moments, it was clear to the parents that they were going to have to spell this out, unfortunately. Mrs. Labra nudged her husband meaningfully, and the man cleared his throat.
"We were thinking that perhaps it should be the other way around, whatever that is called?" This met no response. "Where the groom pays?"
"It's also called a dowry," Vetinari said vaguely. "Traditionally a gift is given to the parents. Or the father calculates how much he has spent on his daughter over the course of her life."
"Yes, that's what we think should happen."
"So you'd rather sell your daughter," Vetinari said evenly, raising a brow. The parents shifted uncomfortably. "Commander Vimes, I think you should stop smiling now."
"Not smiling, sir!" Vimes said quickly, cursing himself. Just because the man couldn't see you didn't mean he didn't know what was going on.
"Mother, I really—I've never met his man before!" Sarah hissed.
"Hush, dear. We'll take care of this." There was money at the end of the tunnel, and they weren't going to lose sight of it without a fight.
"Sarah, be quiet," Mr. Labra ordered sharply, and the woman's mouth snapped shut as if she was a child. Vimes briefly wondered how parents could do that, his own mum included.
Vetinari leaned back again. "Mr. and Mrs. Labra, to state this bluntly, I have no intention of marrying your daughter. I never have, and I seriously doubt I ever will. No offense to you, Ms. Labra." He nodded towards Sarah.
"None taken, your grace." Sarah grinned weakly.
"How dare you not marry our daughter? You said—"
"I said nothing."
"We read it in the Times!" Mrs. Labra said sharply.
William cringed and made no comment, still duly writing.
"Mother, I really don't—"
"Sarah, be quiet, your father and I'll take care of this."
Lord Vetinari stood up carefully. "Mr. and Mrs. Labra, there really is nothing you can say that can change my mind on this matter. Drumknott will show you out." As if on cue, the clerk appeared.
"You're not staying with our daughter alone!" Mr. Labra said.
"We will not be alone." He indicated William.
"And what are you going to take about?"
Vimes was curious himself, and he had a feeling he wasn't going to be in the room to hear it. Damn.
"Drumknott, please show them out." Vetinari turned to the window and Vimes. "Commander Vimes, please disperse this crowd."
"You really can't just—"
"Drumknott can give you a tour of the Palace, if you like. Starting with the dungeons."
Vimes noted that Sarah smiled quite sadistically as both parents silenced and walked out.
After the departure of the others, the Oblong Office was quiet, William sitting in his chair, Lord Vetinari looking out the window at an angle to avoid detection from the street, and Sarah eyeing the room.
"Oh, my manners must have left me." Vetinari turned briskly and sat back down. "Ms. Labra, this is Mr. William de Word, of the Times. Mr. de Word, Ms. Sarah Labra."
"Hello," William waved and wrote.
Lord Vetinari gave a small sigh and folded his hands on the desk. "Mr. de Word, you can stop transcribing for the moment. I will tell you want to write later."
Even though his reporter instincts screamed against it, his survival instinct stood proud. William nodded, "Yes, my lord."
"I don't think I saw you turn the page once. You must write quite small."
The reporter looked at the pad. He had written over it several times. He gulped. "Minuscule."
"Do you have any questions, Ms. Labra?"
Sarah tried not to squeak. "Umm . . . what is going on, exactly? How did this happen?"
"A few weeks ago, a survey was held in the Times," Vetinari explained.
"Without permission," William added quickly.
"Mr. de Word runs the Times, Ms. Labra. He was away on . . . personal matters. The surveys, humorously enough, pondered what my wife would look like. You match the results, unfortunately, very well."
"So this is all just some silly mistake?" Sarah asked, mystified.
"In a word, yes." He took a deep breath and tilted his head slightly.
"You really weren't supposed to exist," William added.
"So, I can just go and say I'm not going to marry you and it's all over."
Lord Vetinari leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. "It is an interesting theory."
"It would work," she said stoutly, but her conviction wavered. "I could say I'm already married!"
"Wouldn't work," William said.
"Why not?" she demanded.
"Because first you'd have to prove it. Second, everyone's gonna think you're a terrible wife cause you've been . . ." William stopped and looked at the Patrician, who hadn't moved a muscle, eyes still closed and breathing deeply.
"I understand," Sarah responded carefully.
"Also, the Patrician would be seen as having an . . ." William gulped, again looking at the man, "an affair with a married woman."
"Oh." Sarah bit her lip. "So you're looking for something that'll not damage either of image."
"More or less," William agreed.
"Perhaps if I just left?"
"You'd still be thought of as his . . . you know."
"Fake my death?"
"As a suicide . . ." William shuddered. "I don't want to think of the rumors. As an assassination, again rumors."
"But as accident," Sarah said smugly.
"Perhaps," William conceded, then looked at the Patrician. The man was still sitting back and listening to the suggestions, eyes closed. The reporter wondered what he was thinking.
Lord Vetinari opened his eyes. "Do you dye your hair, Ms. Labra?"
Sarah blinked. "Yes." This time William blinked.
"What is your natural hair color?"
"Red. How . . . how did you know?"
He waved a hand. "Many dyes have fragrance. I couldn't help but notice it once your parents left. Walnut, and a hint of leeks. You must have did you hair just before you arrived in Ankh-Morpork." He stood up and walked over to the window, watching as the crowd slowly died.
Sarah blinked. "That's . . . right, my lord."
William leaned forward tentatively and licked his lips, pushing other questions aside for now. "Your real hair color is red?"
"Yes. Why is this such a big deal?"
"The survey's results said black hair," William explained.
"People aren't going to tribble over that!" Sarah paused. "Are they?"
William snorted. "These are people who argued about when the coldest winter was for five weeks. Your true hair color will give them months of debate." He paused. "You think your parents would have noticed."
"You don't know my parents," Sarah said airily, but ran a hand through her hair. "How am I supposed to get, I can't believe I'm saying this, my red hair back?"
"Won't it come out?"
"Ms. Labra doesn't need to dye her hair back to her original red, although it would be best, or wash out the coloring she had in already. She just needs to color it any other color than black, and say that is her true hair color is not black," Lord Vetinari said calmly.
"I will instruct some soaps and liquids you will find most useful, Ms. Labra, and a servant can show you to a bath. Mr. de Word and I shall decide what we said during this meeting."
The two stood, staring at the back of the man. "How do you know so much about hair dye. My lord?" William demanded, eyeing the hair and wondering if that was the Patrician's actual hair color.
Lord Vetinari turned his head and smiled slightly at them. "I have found it's useful to know many things about many different things. You never know when it might come in handy." At their continued stares, he then shrugged. "My Aunt also took to dying her hair, once upon a time."
It was a good script, William thought. It said absolutely nothing that was actually said. All the better.
After the transcript had been written, the Patrician merely started to look over reports. William sat and twiddled with his pen.
"What would you done if her hair color really was black?" he asked after a while.
"We shall never know, I suppose."
"You wouldn't have married her, of course."
"I certainly hope it wouldn't have come to that."
The reporter blinked, processing the words. "You mean you might have actually—"
"It really was quite fortunate that Ms. Labra and I did have the same goal in mind."
"—You won't have actually married—"
"Otherwise drastic measures would have had to have been taken."
William paused, and wondered if the Patrician was playing him. The man hadn't even looked up from reading.
"What sort of drastic measures?" he asked suspiciously.
Finally, Lord Vetinari looked up and merely smiled. "Luckily, neither of you shall ever have to know." He folded his hands. "Incidentally, do you know of a convenient time for me to summon Mr. Olsen and Mr. Parker? I really must speak with them."
Drastic measures and all adjoining meanings flew out of William's head, and he relished in a private dream. "Immediately."
"Yes, I thought so, too."
When Sarah reappeared, William gasped. He knew that changing one's hair color could change one's appearance, but it never occurred to him that the change would be so drastic. In going from black to an orangish-color, it was a total change.
"Well?" Sarah asked nervously.
Lord Vetinari inspected the change, tapping his chin with a pen. "It will do, Ms. Labra," he conceded finally. "I hope all goes well."
"Yeah. Me too, your grace."
William stood up. "Well, then we better get going." He wanted one last look at Parker and Olsen.
"Then please don't let me detain you. I hope we do not need to meet any time soon. Good day to both of you."
"You too, your grace."
"Thank you, my lord."
The door was almost closed when Sarah stuck her head back in. "Excuse me, my lord?"
Vetinari looked up. "Yes, Ms. Labra? Is there something else?"
She stood fidgeting. "You didn't take any offense to me not wanting to be your wife, did you, my lord?"
He raised a brow. "No, I did not. I hope neither did you, Ms. Labra."
"Oh, umm, no, my lord." The woman blushed slightly. "Well, good bye, again, my lord."
"Good day to you."
The door closed, and Lord Vetinari shook his head and smiled slightly.
It was eight-thirty the next morning when Drumknott stepped into the Oblong Office with two young men, their eyes wide with fear.
Lord Vetinari pressed his fingertips together and leaned forward. "Gentlemen, we need to talk . . ."
 Well, by "something special", it is in the context that something special was going to happen to the majority of the populous. "Something special" did not include something that only happened to one person, such as being murdered. Except to the one being killed, as that certainly was something that, if not special, wasn't likely to happen again, murder was old news.
 Destiny is just another world for "trouble"
 For everyone not included in the "destiny" portion the stars told off.
 Actually, the correct order would have been along the lines of: "Rip them into tiny, itty-bitty shreds, soak the papers into flammable liquids, and light a match, and spread the ashes to the winds! And then do the same thing to yourselves!" There had been spitting as well.
 After all, the Patrician hadn't called them up to the Oblong Office to have a talk.
 This statement also shows that neither boy is ready to be an editor or make any kind of final statement. What the statement should have been was "Didn't do anything wrong."
 By Ankh-Morpork standards, which is not 50/50. The ratio would be somewhere along the lines of 80/20, or supervisor/worker.
 This is a rather ironic statement for someone who made a point to expose the (imagined) private life of said Patrician.
 Later, William de Word and several others would bitterly wish the carriage had done the task. Of course, if it had, it is unlikely this story would ever have reached its absurd proportions. Parker and Olsen are good for something.
 Both Parker and Olsen, like the majority of Ankh-Morpork, could not get around to accepting that the woman the survey results produced did not, did not, DID NOT exist, despite William's rather convincing ranting. Sacharissa finally stepped in and gave them a story both were able to accept, and then took her whimpering, near-tears husband away, comforting him that everything was going to be just fine, little white lies don't hurt.
 Perhaps it would be a good idea to explain exactly how Parker and Olsen had jumped to this extreme conclusion. (It is not because the author is rather lazy, of course, if that's what you're thinking. Na-uh, totally wrong there. Totally . . .) The fact is that they are the type to jump to conclusions, like any standard Ankh-Morporkian citizen, especially if the conclusion is close to the last thing they were thinking. Any woman who had features even remotely close would have fallen prey to this; however, it is unlikely that any other woman would have met the survey results so wonderfully, who looked like someone who everyone wanted the survey to describe. It really was a million-to-one chance.
 The correct wording should be "Print up"
 Or that he was kneeling down.
 Like William's or Sacharissa's
 Parker and Olsen were oblivious to the real reason that Mr. Goodmountain gave them the week off, with the mild suggestion that they leave Ankh-Morpork for a bit. The nice dwarf even gave them an advance of their pay, which really was nice of them.
Of course, he must have made a small error. He gave them a bit more than what he should have.