Drumknott knocked on the office door gently, and entered the room, an apologetic smile on his face. "I'm sorry to bother you, my lord, but there's a rather large gentleman out here who says he's here to kill you."
Vetinari paused in writing and looked up. "Is it Commander Vimes?" he asked with a smile of his own.
"Oh." Vetinari looked slightly disappointed at the news, Drumknott noted. "Well, does he have an appointment?"
Drumknott shook his head. "No sir."
Vetinari bent his head to his paperwork once more. "Leave him outside for twenty minutes and contact the Palace Guard, just in case."
Drumknott left the room as quietly as he had entered it and as he continued his writing Vetinari could hear his secretary informing the stranger of his instructions. Suddenly there was a loud scream and a crash as Drumknott was thrown through the door, quickly followed by an overly-muscular young man who appeared to be missing several dozen items of clothing. Vetinari looked up.
"Yes?" he asked wearily.
The man drew a large sword and pointed it at him. "Are you…" He looked down at a piece of paper in his hand. "…Lord Vetinari, the tyrant of Ankh-Morpork?"
"I'm the Patrician, yes. Was there something you wanted?"
"I'm here to…" he looked at the sheet of paper again. "…liberate the oppressed peoples of the city from your foul tyranny." Vetinari gave him a blank look. "I'm here to kill you," he finished.
Vetinari put down his pen and leant back in his chair. "Really? And may I inquire as to why?"
"Well, you're a tyrant, I'm a hero, stands to reason really," he explained.
Vetinari groaned inwardly and gave the man a quick once-over; of course he was a hero, that certainly explained the lack of clothing and the weaponry, and the lack of intelligence as well…although compared to some of the guild leaders… Vetinari smiled briefly, then turned his attention back to the man. "What's your name?"
"Dolf the Barbarian."
"Well Mr Dolf…what makes you think I'm a tyrant?"
The hero looked slightly puzzled at the question. "Because someone told me you were?"
"And what if they were lying?"
"You think they were?"
Vetinari smiled. "This is Ankh-Morpork, Mr Dolf, so I think it's entirely possible they might have been lying, yes."
"Oh." Dolf started to sheath his sword then stopped, a suspicious look on his face. "Hang on, lots of people told me you were a tyrant. They couldn't all have been lying."
"Again, this is Ankh-Morpork," Vetinari said.
The suspicious look intensified. "No, I reckon you're lying. If you were an evil tyrant you wouldn't tell me you were 'cause I'd kill you."
Vetinari sighed. "Maybe the people who told you I was an evil tyrant weren't lying, maybe they were simply mistaken."
"Well their definition of a tyrant might be different to yours."
Dolf frowned. "Hmm, that is possible." Suddenly his face brightened and he grinned excitedly. "Oh wait, I've got this book…" he pulled a tatty book out of the waistband at the back of his loincloth. Vetinari could just about make out the words 'How to Bee a Barbarian Hero' on the front cover. "…now lets see, where's that tyrant-spotting section…? Oh, here it is." He cleared his throat nervously. "Do you own a cat?"
Vetinari raised an eyebrow. "Excuse me?"
"It's one of the ways to see if you're a tyrant or not. So come on, do you own a cat?"
"No, I have a dog."
The suspicious expression crossed over the hero's features once more. "How do I know you're telling the truth? You might be lying."
Vetinari tried to resist the temptation to roll his eyes in frustration. "Look under the desk and you will see my dog, Wuffles." This time the barbarian raised an eyebrow. "My aunt chose the name," Vetinari explained. "Look, if you're going to doubt every word I say then we'll be here for a while and I really do have rather a large amount of work to get through. Plus, I think my secretary may need some medical attention; he doesn't seem to have regained consciousness yet."
"You promise to tell the truth?"
"I promise; now what's the next question?"
Dolf took a pencil from Vetinari's desk and put a large X by the first question. "Er…do you have a beard?" He looked up, smiled, and then put a tick on the page.
"Vetinari blinked. "What does my having a beard got to do with being a tyrant?"
"Well, it means you've got something to hide, doesn't it?"
Vetinari groaned and put his head in his hands for a moment. "So let me get this straight," he said slowly. "I chose to grow a beard because I prefer the way I look with one and that immediately singles me out as evil?" The barbarian nodded happily. "What if I went upstairs and shaved it off? Would that automatically make me a good person?"
"I think we can safely ignore that question, can't we?" said Vetinari. "Next?"
"Do you ever imprison people for no reason?"
"No, generally I have quite a good reason for imprisoning people."
"I heard someone say that you have all the mimes arrested though," said Dolf. His brow furrowed. "What's a mime?"
"It's someone who stands in the middle of the street in a silly outfit and face-paint while pretending to be trapped inside an invisible box and expects to get paid for it," Vetinari explained.
"Oh, one of them," Dolf said. "Oh well I hate them, so that's okay." He made a note in the book. "Next question: When sentencing people to death, do you ever cackle madly?"
Vetinari stared at him. "Not usually, no."
"Are you sure?"
"Okay, well have you ever tied a virgin to a large rock for sacrifice to a god, demon or monster of your choice?"
Vetinari smiled. "No, but my last secretary--" he noticed Dolf's puzzled expression and his smile faded. "Long story, not important. Look, how many other questions do you have to ask me?"
Dolf ran his finger down the page, mouthing numbers to himself. "Er… there's thirty questions, so thirty minus four is..?" He looked at his fingers. "Um…"
"I'll tell you what," said Vetinari kindly. "I'll take a look at the rest of the questions and write down the answers for you, it'll be quicker. How would that be?"
Dolf sighed in relief. "Thanks, there were some really long words coming up that I wasn't sure how to say."
Vetinari took the book and pencil and began to read the questions, making ticks and crosses in the appropriate places. "Let's see…no…no…not really…no…okay, yes, I've done that…no…no…" He finished and quickly tallied his score at the bottom of the page before handing the book back to the hero.
Dolf looked down at the answers then back up at Vetinari. "You've really done number twelve?"
Vetinari waved a hand. "Yes, but I don't want to talk about it."
"And number twenty-six? I wouldn't have thought someone like you would be into something like that."
"You'd be surprised at what you can do if you really have no alternative," said Vetinari with a sigh. "So how did I do?"
"You got five out of thirty."
"And that means?"
Dolf turned the page over. "That means…you're not a tyrant." He looked up and gave Vetinari a sheepish grin. "Well, is my face red or what? It seems I've wasted your time, my Lord."
Vetinari smiled. "That's okay, Mr Dolf, it's an easy mistake to make I suppose. Now if you wouldn't mind leaving, I do have quite a bit of work to do."
"Of course, your Lordship." Dolf walked over to the doorway of the office.
"Oh, Mr Dolf…?"
The hero turned around. "Yes, your Lordship?"
"Be out of the city in an hour or I'll have you imprisoned."
Dolf grinned and nodded. "Of course, your Lordship. It was nice to meet you sir."
As the barbarian hero left the office and began to make his way out of the palace, Vetinari picked up his pen once more and began to write.
There was a groan from the floor.
"Ah, Drumknott," said Vetinari, not looking up from his work. "You've regained consciousness at last; no lasting damage, I hope?"
Drumknott sat up, holding his head gingerly in case it fell off. "I don't think so, sir. Er...what happened?"
"You were thrown through the door by a young man known as Dolf the Barbarian."
"Oh." Drumknott struggled to his feet using the desk as leverage.
"Are you sure you're okay, Drumknott? You appear to be bleeding onto my desk."
Drumknott quickly wiped at the spots of blood with his sleeve. "I apologise, my lord, but I'm sure I'll be fine. Would you like a cup of tea?"
Vetinari smiled. "Yes, thank you, Drumknott, that would be nice. When you order the tea, be sure to order yourself a small brandy to calm your nerves, you've had quite a shock."
"Yes sir, thank you sir." Drumknott walked to the doorway, still swaying slightly.
"Oh, and Drumknott? Send someone up to replace the door as quickly as possible, will you? Having it hanging of the hinges like that is making the office look quite untidy."