His first memory was of silence.
As a child with no other source of entertainment, he spent hours on end recording on paper the shades of silence he discovered: the grey, layered quiet in the orchards; the fragile hush found behind doors closed but not locked against the outside world; the heavier soundlessness of the crypt. In the hours between hearing, he learned to listen.
Later, Havelock Vetinari looked back on what he wrote and smiled at the big, shapeless letters and clumsy wording. But he remembered the gift of silence, and made it, like so many others, his own.
He was the last of the Vetinari line, his mother told him at his father's funeral. They were very like; both proud and cold with faces carved from marble. He was six years old, and learning.
Vetinaris did not cry. That was the lesson. His mother laid out the linen and shrouded his father and left the crypt dry-eyed.
That evening, in her chamber, she played the Johnson for hours on end. There were no tears shed over the dead lord, and no words said. Havelock knew, because he stood there, ear pressed to her door, all through the night.
After his father's death, his only constant company was his mother, who was not inclined towards the Happy Families approach. The servants were timid, pale wraiths he rarely caught a glimpse of, and the governesses were stiff-necked, spinsterly women, every one.
His aunt, therefore came as something of a shock.
Call me Madam, sweetheart, she laughed, a sudden splash of color against the grey stone of the manor. She smelled like another life, another world, and at the end of her visit, when she asked him to go with her to Genua, he didn't understand what the question was.
When he was twelve, she told him about the will.
What will? he asked, lazily.
The will, she repeated. Your father's will.
Yes, she said. That will. You are to attend the Guild of Assassins.
They sat together on the hillside, without speaking. Havelock closed his eyes, lifted his face to the sun, and tried to remember the city.
When am I going? he said finally.
Madam hesitated. Soon, she said, after a moment. Soon.
They did not hold hands, or hug, or even speak. Under the smiles and lilac, Havelock reflected, she's just as much a Vetinari as me.
At first, he hated Ankh-Morpork with a passion. He hated the guild. He hated his fellow schoolmates, stupid little boys in too-big black clothes, every one. The lessons bored him. He learned far more by watching his teachers' mistakes. When he discovered he was top of his class, he laughed for the first time in weeks.
So, because without stimulation he knew his mental powers would start to deteriorate, he challenged himself to learn not to hate it, but to love it.
It took him a year. The trick, he discovered, was to see it as a dungheap -
- with style.
On the evening following the Glorious 25th of May, Havelock Vetinari returned to his quarters in the Viper House, stripped, and scrubbed his skin with a coarse wire brush until it reddened and bled.
It's not that he felt guilty. He didn't. He had been racing time and all the resources the city could, officially, provide, and there was no shame in admitting temporary defeat.
On the contrary, he scrubbed his skin until it bled because his thoughts were elsewhere. He listened with one ear to fireworks celebrating the ascension of Lord Snapcase.
Temporary was the word. Yes.
Following his graduation, or perhaps in honor of it, Madam moved in with him to his estate in the city. To his own mild surprise, he had mixed feelings about it, and it was only because he had practiced wearing sincere expressions that he was able to greet her with a smile.
On the one hand, it meant the taste of the decorations in the old house would improve by leaps and bounds. On the other, it meant he would have to work much harder to keep out of her way when attending to certain... plans.
Havelock had many plans.
It was generally assumed, by that section of high society which knew his name and listened to rumors, that he had at last been introduced to the pleasures of the flesh by one Lady Margolotta Amaya Katerina Assumpta Crassina von Uberwald.
And this was true. But only for a given value of true. Because while the lady vampire certainly taught him many things he had not previously known about, as Cyril de Worde called it, the fairer sex, he was fairly sure that if she took his suggestions to heart, Uberwald would be seeing some much-needed change soon.
Many things are said about the death of Lord Snapcase, but the facts are as follows:
On his forehead, someone had placed a reciept, courtesy of the Assassin's Guild, complete with the discreet motto: "When Style Matters."
He was found by a maid.
He had been hung.
And for unknown reasons, a figgin had been stuffed in his mouth.
Furthermore, the guards were unharmed, the traps in the hallway unsprung, and the locks untampered with. Some historians also noted that someone had sent a new bust to the gallery of the Guild on that very night.
There was no plaque.
Fifty four minutes after Lord Snapcase's body was found, Havelock Vetinari climbed to the stairs leading to the Oblong Office. He was dressed all in black, but no one officially paid it mind. It was, after all, to be a period of mourning.
Mr. Slant was waiting for him. He handed the heavy tome he carried to Vetinari, silently.
Lupine Wonse, who watched the proceedings from the hallway, was the only person to see the hunger in the man's blue eyes as he swore to defend the city, to lead the city, to be the city.
He remembered that look.