I've set aside my duties as V's press secretary to begin a narrative fic. I'll do more on the "Office of the Patrician" fic soon. Thanks for all the great reviews!

(Disclaimer: As much as I wish I had thought up the Discworld, I didn't. All characters and stuff belong to Pterry. Lucky stiff.)



Chapter 1: A bit of mischief



The Patrician Havelock Vetinari was a sighing sort of man. He didn't sigh at buttercups or rainy afternoons or kittens. He sighed at stupidity.

A fine example of that trait sat across from him in the person of Mustrum Ridcully, Archchancellor of Unseen University and one of the worst chess players on the Disc.

Ridcully wasn't normally stupid, he was merely stupid at chess.

For the Patrician, that was enough. He sighed.

"That is not a regulation move, Archchancellor," he said.

"To hell it isn't, your Lordship! Look, I moved the horse like this..." Ridcully, knocked over several pawns as he grasped the white knight and moved it back three squares and sideways four. He sat back, smiling triumphantly. "See? Now I'm right up there at your king."

The Patrician stared as Ridcully took a self-satisfied drag from his pipe. There was normally no smoking allowed in Lord Vetinari's parlour for the sole reason that smokers under prohibition tended to get nervous. That could be useful. But for some reason, Ridcully hadn't noticed the Patrician's raised eyebrow, or the small wave of his thin hand as smoke floated across the chessboard, or the single cough of warning that in the past had made smokers eat their cigarettes in Vetinari's presence.

Instead, the Patrician watched Ridcully attempt a smoke ring.

Lord Vetinari detected a movement in the tiny vein on his forehead that throbbed like a strobe light when he tried to practice a certain level of patience. That morning he'd learned the secretary to the Istanzian ambassador was a spy for the Ephebians and Ankh-Morpork's tax revenue was down 15 percent in the last quarter. Worst of all, there was evidence that some street entertainers and mimes were trying to form a guild. The last thing the Patrician needed at the moment was Ridcully.

The vein throbbed. Vetinari sighed again.

"The knight does not move that way, Archchancellor. I'll show you again."

He began setting all of the chess pieces back to their start positions.

"Here! What're you doing?" Ridcully said.

The audience let out a loud "Ook!" and knuckled its way up to the board. Its sole member, the Librarian of Unseen University, bared his teeth at the Patrician. Lord Vetinari stopped. Orang-utan teeth have big stopping power.

"Yes?" said the Patrician.

"Ook?"

"Because the Archchancellor has to play by the rules."

Ridcully angrily exhaled two smoke clouds through his nose.

"Are you accusing me of cheating?"

"Of course not, Archchancellor. Only of misunderstanding the finer points of the game."

Ridcully and the Librarian looked at each other.

"Sounds like he thinks I been cheating, eh?"

"Ook."

Once more, the Patrician sighed. It was going to be, he felt, a long Ponce Featherhew Day. For a man who valued the newspaper horoscope for its absorbency, the Patrician's prediction was surprisingly accurate.*

The Ponce Featherhew Day tradition was an ancient one, and Lord Vetinari was the last to argue openly with tradition. The chess board was the traditional ivory and ebony variety stored normally in the Palace Treasury and the pieces were the traditional carvings from the bone of the Three-footed Howandaland Sloth. They were misshapen from centuries of use.

The traditional Ponce Featherhew Day chess game between the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork and the Archchancellor of Unseen University was supposed to symbolize the balance of power between state and magical institutions. It gave each a chance to work out any mutual aggression through non-violent means.

Its origin was with Ponce Featherhew himself, a wood carver who saved Ankh-Morpork's king from assassination by pretending to turn his sire into a cooked celery. The regicide-minded wizards of the time were fooled when Featherhew stuck celery stalks up the nose of King Stoat II, who then announced "I ab a celery. Really, I ab." As remembrance, sad, limp little stalks were pinned to the robes of Ridcully and the Patrician.

In the fine tradition of meaningless traditions, no human was allowed to watch the chess game. Thus the Librarian, a good-natured ape that was once a wizard, had a monopoly on the cheers and boos, while Wuffles, a malicious and malodorous terrier, failed to follow the game from his bed in the corner of the Patrician's parlour. Lord Vetinari had invited leading citizens of Ankh-Morpork's minority groups (dwarfs, trolls and the undead) to attend the match. But like every year, none showed up. Watching chess was about as exciting as eating cooked celery.

Lord Vetinari moved the black knight several times. "Is the movement clear, Archchancellor?" he asked.

"Yes, yes."

"And here, the bishop moves so."

"I remember that one. I'm not a complete idiot, you know."

Lord Vetinari blinked slowly. "Certainly not, Archchancellor. Shall we try again, then?"

"I go first since you stopped the last game," Ridcully blew a massive cloud of smoke over the board, "right when I was winning."

They played in silence for a few minutes. The Librarian peeled another banana and followed the moves closely. The Patrician's hands moved like liquid across the board during his turns, but Ridcully blundered through, knocking over pieces and muttering to himself. He was not having fun. To him, chess was for those kinds of people who were flabby, pale and bad at sports. In his view, only women should play it. Sedentary women. The kind who knitted. And speaking of women, didn't the queen piece have a suggestive shape to it?

As one of the Disc's champion chess players, Lord Vetinari could calculate five permutations of a move in his head per second.

Ridcully got the shivers touching the queen.

The outcome of their annual Ponce Featherhew Day games should have been obvious. Yet out of the past seven, Ridcully had actually won three. Lord Vetinari thought it prudent to let the man win every once in a while.

But not this time.

"Checkmate, Archchancellor."

Ridcully leaned over the board and stared. "How, then?"

"If you look closely, my bishop has an open path to your king," Vetinari said.

"But look..." Ridcully moved a white pawn and flicked the black bishop off the board. "Got you, there, eh? Thought you could pull one over on me." He leaned back and puffed on his pipe. "You have to get up early in the morning before-"

"--Archchancellor, you appear to have overlooked the black queen, who is standing two squares in front of your king."

The Librarian let a banana peel slip from his hand. Ridcully stared at the chess board. After a moment, he straightened up in his chair.

"I see," he said.

The Librarian applauded and offered Lord Vetinari a banana. The Patrician accepted it graciously and set it on a side table for later. He stood up.

"Well, Archchancellor, it's been another delightful Ponce Featherhew Day. You will certainly have better luck next year."

Ridcully adjusted his pointy hat and glared at the Patrician. "I think we should go grouse shooting next year and see who comes out on top then." He fetched his staff and glowered at the chess board.

Lord Vetinari steepled his fingers before his lips. "Alas, Archchancellor, I don't make the traditions. I only follow them."

Though his mind was on other things, the Patrician did not forget one of his first rules of politics: Always be polite to a defeated opponent. It deepens the humiliation.

He smiled and offered his hand to Ridcully, who stared at it for a moment with a strange light in his eye. The Archchancellor reached forward - the Librarian let out an alarmed "OOK!" -- and grasped Vetinari's hand.

A ray of octarine light, the 8th colour of the spectrum and the colour of pure magic, shot from Ridcully's hand to Lord Vetinari's and sped up the Patrician's arm. It spread over his shocked face and down his robe to the tips of his shoes. For a moment, he was completely encased in the light. A cry of outrage choked in his throat.

A moment later, it was over.

The clock ticked. Wuffles, who had dived under his blanket at the moment of magical discharge, stuck his nose out and sniffed the air.

Ridcully was alone. He looked in the palm of his hand and saw a small black form. A chess piece that only on closer inspection had the livid face of Havelock Vetinari. It was the knight, his sword drawn and his horse stamping the air. Its black surface had a sheen the Ponce Featherhew Day pieces had long ago lost.

"I don't think I should have done that," said Ridcully.

"Ook," said the Librarian glumly.

"Still, I didn't know I had it in me. This old dog knows some good tricks, eh?"

The Librarian slapped both hands against his head and began to sway, his lips puckered with worry.

"Oh, well of course he probably won't appreciate that brilliant bit of magic," Ridcully said, "seeing that he's made of ebony now." He peered at the figure again. It fell over in his hand. "I wonder if he felt that."

"Ook."

"It was just a bit of mischief."

"Ook."

Ridcully glared at the Librarian. "You're a bag of negativity today, aren't you? When you should be congratulating me on a successful Croggly's Sub-dimensional Discombobulator, you're wondering if anyone will miss the Patrician while he's... discombobulated."

"Ook."

"The spell wears off eventually." Ridcully wrinkled his eyebrows. "I think."

"Ook."

"Yes, yes, all right," said Ridcully testily. He slipped the chess piece into his tobacco pouch.

"Truth be told, I'm a bit used up. No good for magic until tomorrow. Maybe the others can figure out how to bring him back faster. Though if you ask me, the Dean has been a bit uppity lately and I won't mind showing him who's the big man in sub-dimensional transmutation."

The Archchancellor and the Librarian slipped quietly out of the Patrician's parlour. When questioned, they informed Lord Vetinari's clerk Rufus Drumknott that His Lordship was "having a bit of a snooze." They high-tailed it out of the Palace and headed for Unseen University.

Lord Vetinari noticed none of this. He was somewhere else...



* The Patrician is a Virgo. Virg-o. With an "o" on the end. His horoscope for Ponce Featherhew Day was cast by Mrs. Marianna Longmower, professional seer, as follows: "Tribulations await Ye today. Hours'll seem like Days. Eat Beans at yer own Risk. Today's recommended Numbers: 8, 27, 131 1/2."