Chapter 9: The Souvenir
The caution wasn't needed. Unlike most times when the Patrician visited Leonard of Quirm, there were absolutely no new inventions bubbling, puttering or exploding. Lord Vetinari found Leonard sitting quietly at a table mashing something with a pestle in a bowl.
"Your Lordship! Just in time to see the fruits of my labours. Look here –"
"Leonard, I really don't have—"
"--I dried out and ground down the Klatchian fire peppers you sent up last week." Leonard dumped the contents of the bowl into a machine that looked rather like a post box and turned several knobs. After a moment, a faint bubbling could be heard. "When the peppers are fully heated, their essence integrates with the mechanism I've designed here and – theoretically – will heat this room without the need for wood or coal. I call it a Heat-Up-A-Room-With-Hot-Peppers-Apparatus. Think of the possibilities for alternative energy, my lord!"
"But Leonard, the production and import costs of the peppers put them at 10 times the price of coal."
Leonard held up a finger. "Ah, yes. But the peppers are far more efficient. They burn cleanly, heat the home and form an integral part of the family meal." He bit into a leftover pepper, and tears sprang into his eyes.
The Patrician sighed.
"Leonard, please, it's very urgent that we –"
And then the box exploded.
The Patrician was accustomed to this sort of thing and had his favorite hiding place behind one of Leonard's large unfinished canvases that Lord Vetinari had taken the precaution to back with a six inch oak plank. After the clanging of falling bits of metal had subsided, he ventured a look. Leonard was stooped over the remains of the Hot Pepper Apparatus, licking his fingers thoughtfully.
"Concentration was too high, I think. I must make a note of that..."
"Leonard, I have another job for you. It's urgent."
Leonard brightened. "More codes, my lord?"
"I'm afraid not. Tell me, can you draw a portrait based solely on a verbal description?"
"Oh yes. Though I think if you have some time I could design a machine that would –"
"I don't have time. Do you have any blank sketching paper?"
Leonard rummaged in a box next to his third prototype of a machine to foam milk. He emerged with a roll of large paper, which he smoothed out on his desk after clearing the other papers aside.
"Very good, Leonard," said Lord Vetinari. "All I need is a sketch."
"Of course, your Lordship, though you'll be interested to see the last sketch I did of a—"
"It's crucial that we do this now."
"Yes, my lord, but I know you've often wondered about—"
"Leonard, I would like us to get started."
"Oh, yes, but now that you mention it, I think I'm out of the no.2 black —"
"--Draw with shoe polish if you have to!" Lord Vetinari said sharply. He instantly regretted it. Scolding Leonard was like kicking a puppy.
Leonard looked at the Patrician with concern.
"Is there something on your mind, my lord?"
The Patrician sat beside Leonard and sighed. "There always is. Let's begin with the face."
"It would help if I knew if it was a man or woman, my lord."
"Of course. A woman. Now, she has..."
"Her name and age? That sort of thing helps orient me."
The Patrician thought hard, the memories slipping away like ice floes in his mind.
"Alexandra. She's, I would estimate between 30 and 35. Now, her face..." He closed his eyes. "It's shaped a bit like a lemon, long side up, of course, but not lumpy, and certainly without the pointy end…" he paused, his brow furrowed. "Her face is rather brownish with freckles over the nose. I suppose that doesn't help us right now with only black ink, aha. Yes. And her eyes, they're shaped like… pistachios, and they're brown like wheat but with strange greenish streaks…"
The Patrician kept trying to describe Alexandra though it occurred to him that he lacked the vocabulary to say exactly what he wanted. His metaphor and simile habit kept getting in the way. Besides, thirty years ago, he may have been the only teenager alive who never wrote poetry to some unreachable love. Even if he had, his powers of romantic description would have gone rusty from decades of neglect.
He opened his eyes and was surprised to see that Leonard sketched happily. On the page was the shape of a face, the suggestion of cheeks and a chin, and a single eye. Everything looked…plausible.
"This is making sense, Leonard?" asked Lord Vetinari.
"Oh yes, your Lordship. Do go on."
The Patrician spoke, pausing every once in awhile to look at Leonard's progress and answer his occasional questions. With each additional detail, Alexandra's face faded from his mind. By the time they were finished, she was only a haze in his memory.
"A striking woman, my lord," Leonard said. "I do hope I got the smile right."
The Patrician gazed at the drawing. The sketch was accurate as far as he could remember, which by then wasn't far. What he did remember, vaguely, was the liveliness of Alexandra, which he could barely describe but that Leonard had somehow succeeded in recreating on paper.
"It looks fine, Leonard," said the Patrician.
"I'm glad to hear it, my lord. Shall I do a painting? It would be less trouble if the lady could pose for me. Is she a shy one?"
The Patrician smiled quickly. "Not at all. But I'm afraid she isn't able to come for a sitting."
"Pity," said Leonard. It had been a long time since he'd had a young woman pose for him. The thought made him wistful. "I can do a painting anyway, my lord, if you could get me some new burnt umber. I would guess that her hair wasn't just brown but a rich dark brown with maybe some reddish highlights."
"Yes, I think that's true. With…some hay here and there."
A painting. Of course the Patrician wouldn't hang it in the Oblong Office. That just…wasn't done. But he would put it somewhere safe and look at it sometimes and wonder who she was. Perhaps he would even remember…
"I'll have the paint sent up, Leonard," said the Patrician. "She should have something in her hands, though. A wooden cup, I think. With a little paper umbrella sticking out of it. And a coconut slice."
"With a bit of metallic tint I could do a very good gold cup with--"
"Just wood, Leonard," said the Patrician. "How long will the painting take?"
"A couple of weeks, my lord. I have some ideas for a detailed background containing—"
"A winter landscape, a barn, peasant dancers..." The Patrician's voice faded. "Yes. But first, please copy the sketch, Leonard. I would like to take one with me."
"Of course, my lord." Leonard started on a fresh sheet of paper.
The Patrician picked up another sheet, dipped one of Leonard's quills into the ink and began to write. He had a lifelong habit of writing notes to himself, cryptic little things that would seem meaningless to anyone else. At the top of the page he wrote: Next Ponce Featherhew - iconograph.
Satisfied, he moved further down on the paper and began to write quickly. He had to record what was left of the memories before they disappeared for good.