Lady Roberta Meserole stared at the letter in her hand. So, it had happened. She'd warned Edward not to move against Lord Smince so soon; he didn't have enough support to overthrow the Patrician, he didn't have enough of the /right/ support. But he'd insisted that something had to be done /now/, that the city was drowning under the influence of the corrupt administration. She remembered the day he'd told her of his plan, how determined he was to do this right. "I have to do something, Bobbi," he'd said. "I /need/ to do something. I want Ankh-Morpork to be how it could be, a place that works. Somewhere I'd be proud to raise my son."
Ah, yes. His son. Madame sighed and folded up the letter. She would have to burn it later, Havelock was sure to find out about it at some stage, he always did. She would tell him the truth about what had happened of course, but that didn't mean he needed to hear /all/ of it just yet. Her contact in the Palace had been quite...graphic...about what had happened. The arrest, the torture, the show trial...the execution. No, she thought firmly, no child should have to hear about /that/. She almost wished she hadn't.
She walked out into the hall and climbed the stairs, heading towards Havelock's room. Thanks gods her brother had sent him to her before attempting anything, she dreaded to think what might have happened to the child if he hadn't. He may only be eight years old, but Madame didn't doubt for a minute that Lord Smince wouldn't have hesitated in torturing a child in order to incriminate his father. She remembered being slightly put out at the time, having her nephew just dumped on her with barely a word of warning. He had always been a slightly odd child, quiet and studious, not given to the rowdy games that other boys of his age indulged in. The first night he'd stayed with her, she remembered being shocked as he pulled out a thick volume on the campaigns of General Tacticus and proceeded to read it with every sign of enjoyment and understanding. She could picture it now, the thin little boy sitting in a chair that dwarfed him, reading a book that probably weighed more than he did.
As she neared the entrance to his room, she paused and took a moment to compose herself. This was going to be tough.
"Havelock, I need to talk to you."
Havelock smiled at his aunt as she entered his room and set down his book. He enjoyed it when his aunt came to speak to him. She was always so interesting.
Madame sat on his bed and gestured for him to come over. He did so and she put an arm around his thin shoulders. "Havelock, you remember your father told you that you were going to stay for me for a little while?"
The boy nodded.
"Well, the reason for that is...Lord Smince--"
"Yes. He, well, he was/is/ a very bad person and your father--"
"--Father said that Lord Smince was killing the city with bad government and that we needed to get rid of him. Father kept having people come to the house to help plan how to usurp him." Havelock interrupted.
Oh gods, thought Madame. He /knew/. He's an eight year old boy and he /knew/. Edward, how could you be so stupid? You couldn't even stop your son from finding out. "Did he? And how did you find this out?"
Havelock shrugged. "I'm quiet. And people will say anything in front of a child, especially if they think he's not listening."
Madame stared at him. "How much of their plan did you hear?" she said in a hoarse voice.
"All of it."
She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. At least he sent you to me, she thought. He could have got you killed as well, that bloody /fool/. She opened her eyes again and stared fixedly at a picture Havelock had drawn of her house on the opposite wall. "Havelock, your father was being spied upon. Someone informed Lord Smince about the plot and your father was arrested."
She felt the little boy freeze beside her. She wanted to stop there, to tell him everything was going to be okay, but it wasn't...
"Your father...my brother...was found guilty of treason and was executed. I'm so sorry." She looked down, holding back the tears that threatened to overwhelm her and she tensed her jaw. No, she thought, I must be strong for Havelock; after all I'm all he has left. She snuck a look at her nephew.
Havelock was sitting perfectly still, staring blankly into space. In a perfectly calm voice, he said "How was he executed?"
"I don't think you need to know that."
"He was beheaded."
Havelock nodded. That was a nobleman's death at least. Honourable. Quick. He wondered how his father must have felt on the scaffold, whether he had thought about his son.
"Don't be sad, Havelock. He's with your mother now, and they're looking down on you and smiling at how brave you're being..." Madame's voice trailed off as her nephew turned and looked at her.
"What will happen now?" he asked.
"I'll look after you. You can come and live here with me in Genua."
"No. I want to live in Ankh-Morpork."
"Yes, but Havelock, it's not safe--"
"--I don't care. It's my home and I don't want to leave it."
She swallowed nervously. "Havelock, the only way I can do that is if I send you to school there. Alone. I can't stay there right now. I just can't."
Havelock stood up and walked over to the window. "Fine. Do that. I can go to the Assassin's Guild. I would have gone there anyway."
Madame brushed out a non-existent wrinkle on her dress. "I know you're angry. And scared. But you are only a child, and I really don't think that this is a good idea. It will be dangerous and I won't be able to protect you."
"It's what he would have wanted." The boy's voice was barely more than a whisper.
Madame sighed and nodded. "Well you can't join the Guild until you're a little older anyway. So you can stay here in Genua for the time being and then when you're the right age then we'll see if you've changed your mind--"
"--I won't. If you don't mind, Madame, I would like to be alone."
She smiled sadly at his use of her title and stood up, "If you need me at all..." She walked out of the door, turning to take one last look at her nephew, his hands clasped behind his back as he stared out of the window at the street below.
"I'll be fine,"
Yes, she thought as she closed the door behind her. You will be, won't you.