Author's Note: The first part of this chapter is set before the events in Night Watch, and the latter set after. It's probably obvious, but I just thought I should clarify this. Oh, and I've started to refer to Vetinari by his surname because I think its now that he truly starts to become the Vetinari that we all know and love…or fear and loathe, its up to you.
Disclaimer: The characters aren't mine, and I promise to return them in one piece and only slightly traumatised when I've finished playing with them.
"You want me to /what/?"
"I want you to Assassinate Lord Winder," Madame said calmly. "Or do you think you can't do it?"
Vetinari paused and took a deep breath. It was an intriguing idea, he had to admit. /Could/ he do it? "I certainly think it's possible," he said carefully. "But there is a certain amount of…risk involved."
"Of course there is, but it's something that needs to be done. The city is starting to die under Winder's administration. You've said so yourself."
Vetinari nodded. That was true at least. And it wasn't the idea of killing someone that was making him hesitate, he'd killed—no, wait—he'd /inhumed/ people before, on his aunt's orders, and he knew he was good at it, but still…
"It's because of what happened to your father isn't it?" said Madame, noticing his hesitation. "I hate to say it about my own brother, but he was caught because he was stupid. And we are not stupid people, Havelock, or at least I like to think so; we have learnt from his mistakes. Or is it that you don't trust me?"
"Of course I trust you, Madame," said Vetinari, lying only slightly. His aunt was a good person, he knew that, but he also suspected that she would sell him down the river in an instant to save her own skin. He couldn't exactly blame her for that though; he would probably do the same thing. "I just wonder if it would be possible to achieve his removal by other means."
Madame shifted slightly in her chair and gave him a calculating look. "And how exactly do you think we can do that? No, this is the only way. If we get rid of Winder, then have him replaced with Mr Snapcase, perhaps /he/ will be a ruler that will accept direction and the city will be allowed to breathe again."
"It's /our/ ability to remain breathing that I'm worried about," Vetinari snapped. "I /do/ know the way these things work, Madame. Before an attempt can be made on Lord Winder's life, you will need to cultivate support for Winder's removal, and that means voicing opinions and ideas that could get us both an appointment with the scaffold if we fail."
"Then maybe we should make sure we don't fail." Madame decided to play her trump card. "Your father would have done it."
Vetinari's eyes narrowed. "My father was tortured half to death and then beheaded, Madame. He died a broken and beaten man and I hardly think that /he/ is a good example to use of revolutionary bravery."
Madame looked shocked. "How…how did you know what happened to him? I never told you that."
"No, you left that part of the story out, didn't you?" Havelock said. "The story about the great revolutionary who was betrayed by a confidant, but still died a hero to the cause. It's a shame you left out the parts about the hot irons and the shallow cuts, they certainly made for good reading."
"How did…the letter they sent…? But I burnt that the next day!"
"Not quite soon enough, Madame. You really should have burnt it that day or at least have locked it away more securely, the lock on that desk of yours is very easy to pick, and it didn't take me long to make a copy of your correspondence." Although his tone was calm, inside Vetinari was seething; how dare she try to manipulate him like that... "As I told you that day, children notice things, and I certainly noticed you receiving a letter that day before you told me the…news. And I /knew/ you would leave something out."
Madame looked down at her hands. "I'm sorry for misleading you, but I am right about Winder." she said quietly.
Vetinari sighed. "Yes, I suppose you are. I will evaluate the situation in the Palace. I know my way around easily enough, but it never hurts to brush up on the patrol rotas and possible entry points."
Madame nodded. "I'll start to cultivate support in the nobility and the Guilds," she smiled faintly. "A woman's touch is always easier in that regard."
A few months later...
Vetinari winced as he stood up straight and looked around the alley. Well it looked like all of Snapcase's men had either died fighting or had run away. The watchmen that were left standing were starting to slink out of the alley themselves; if the new Patrician had sent men to kill John Keel then it would not be a good idea to be seen to have been on his side at all. The Particulars may be gone, but there were always men willing to do an unpleasant job like torture for a bit of decent pay and prestige, and no one felt like being the one they trained on.
"Sarge? Sarge? Wake up, Sarge!"
Vetinari looked over to where a skinny lad about his own age was shaking the body of the fallen Keel. He was as covered in blood and grime as Vetinari himself was but even from this distance Vetinari could see the tears streaking through the dirt.
A larger, older watchman rushed over to the boy and grabbed at his arm, trying to pull him away from the corpse. "Come on, Vimesy, there's nothing you can do for him, he's dead! We have to go /now/, or we'll end up joining him!" Eventually he managed to drag the younger man to his feet and pulled down the alley and into the street.
The man was right, Havelock thought. Leaving now would be the prudent thing to do, but first…
He walked up to the corpse of Sergeant-at-Arms John Keel and looked at it dispassionately. He'd seen lots of corpses before, not least of all his own mother's and they had never bothered him; besides he knew his aunt would want a full report of how Keel died. Well, it looked like Keel had died from a stab wound in the throat, unprofessionally done, Vetinari noted, no Assassin's finesse there but it would certainly have been enough to kill him. But the wound looked…/old/. It wasn't obvious to anyone who hadn't received an Assassin's education in biology, but it definitely wasn't a fresh wound. But it /was/ Keel; there was the armour and the eye patch and everything. Interesting.
He clambered up a nearby wall and began to make his way to his aunt's house on Easy Street, musing over the events of the day as he jumped from rooftop to rooftop. It had certainly been a strange day, he thought, but one that provided some interesting points to think about. Not least of all how to explain his injuries to his fellow students at the Guild.
He reached his aunt's house and entered easily through a window she had left open for him. He made his way down to the parlour she'd met Keel in, where she sat on a sofa, a full but untouched mug of champagne next to her. She looked up as he entered the room, a tense look on her face.
"Keel is dead, from a stab wound in the throat. I got there too late to warn him, he and his men were already under attack when I reached them."
She took in the cuts on his face and hands, the tears in his clothing. "You joined in the fighting?"
Vetinari nodded. "Yes, for all the good it did them." He sat down gingerly on a chair opposite her. "Did you have any more luck with Lord Snapcase?"
She smiled bitterly. "Lord Snapcase has decided that he will not require our counsel now that he has achieved high office; he feels he can look after Ankh-Morpork all by himself. We were escorted from the Palace grounds." She raised the mug of champagne. "Want a drink? After all, a new Patrician is something to celebrate…" she said, a note of hysteria entering her voice on the last word.
Vetinari shook his head. "I've been wondering what to say at the Guild about how I received my injuries."
"Tell them you got mugged. It's believable; the streets are still chaotic out there." Madame drained the mug and leaned back against a cushion. "We'll have to leave the city again."
"Oh, I agree you should leave, certainly. Snapcase has you directly tied into the plot to depose Winder and you will definitely be a target should he decided to 'reward' the conspirators in the same manner as he 'rewarded' Keel. But no one here knows that you and I are related, and I'm not regarded to be advanced enough to have completed the assignment on Winder as far as the Guild is concerned."
"It's still a risk though."
Vetinari smiled wanly. "I'm a Vetinari. If I ran at the first sign of danger I would be dishonouring the family name, wouldn't I? Besides, if I stay, I can keep an eye on things and I would be in a position to warn you should Snapcase open a commission on you."
Madame sighed. "I suppose it makes sense, but I would still worry about you. You do know that, don't you?" Vetinari nodded. "When do you think I should leave?"
"That's a little soon, don't you think? I have to get all of my things packed up here, and I have to send word to my servants in Genua—"
"—Madame, Snapcase sent men after Keel within an /hour/ of becoming Patrician. I doubt he will take much longer to send more after you. You have to leave /now/."
She opened her mouth as if to argue, then sighed resignedly. "I suppose you're right. You usually are." She rang a small bell on the table by the sofa. A butler opened the door and Madame turned to address him. "Turner, have the coach made ready to depart immediately. It's time to return to Genua." The butler turned and left quietly, shutting the door behind him. "Well, I suppose I had better go and throw some clothes and things in a trunk, I've got about ten minutes before the coach will be ready."
"Genua won't be safe for long," said Vetinari. "Too many people here know that you live there."
"True. Well, there are other cities; although most of them lack the charm Genua has," she smiled. "At least it will give me an opportunity to travel."
"You could try Quirm; I've heard the floral clock is quite picturesque this time of year."
"Quirm is as dull as toast. Maybe Pseudopolis? There's supposed to be quite the nightlife."
Vetinari matched his aunt's smile. "Maybe."
"Promise you'll write to me? Or better yet, visit me?"
Madame looked at him fondly. "I knew you'd say that. It'll probably take the end of the Disc itself before you leave this city again, won't it?" She stood up. "Well, I've got some frenzied packing to do and you need to get back to the Guild and establish an alibi. But first, come and give your Aunty a hug goodbye."
Vetinari stood up and hugged her. She was holding on to him too tightly to be fully comfortable, considering all the bruises he'd received that day, but he knew this was important to her so he let her. Finally, she released her grip and looking up at him, she smoothed down his hair and took one last look at her nephew before he left. "You look just like your father. He would be so proud of you." She coughed and walked to the door. "Goodbye, Havelock. Promise you won't forget to write?"
Vetinari paused as he climbed out the window, to turn to his aunt and smile at her back. "I promise, Madame."