Thanks go to Andrew Salt, Finlay and Aramis-chan for advice and encouragement.
A word of warning: I am taking Vetinari out of his familiar environment here and he will behave somewhat differently from what we usually see. I have given a lot of thought to the psychology, and I think it is sound and in keeping with his personality. However, if you prefer only to see him with his patrician persona, this story is probably not for you.
Chapter 1: Don't cross a Sanguini!
It is said that whenever a door closes, another one opens. The truth of this must be metaphoric, of course, as can be easily shown by opening all the windows in a house on a windy day and hearing all the doors slam shut simultaneously. Your basic metaphor is harder to disprove. It would appear to be true though, as far as this story is concerned, that quite unexpectedly Lord Havelock Vetinari had opened a door to his heart 1) and had let somebody in. Opinions on the nature of that somebody vary, but one thing seems clear beyond doubt: that, once inside, she made herself at home very quickly.
1) Metaphor again. Duh!
Maria Susanna Sanguini 2), better known as Dame Gina Dulci, stood back and admired her mirror image. She believed that modesty should never extend to the point of dishonesty, so she could not help but admire her own impressive appearance. Describing her hair alone would have taken two paragraphs at least, so she was glad that she was under no obligation to do so. Besides, as she would have been the first to admit, she was not all that good with words. Certainly not good enough to do justice to her glimmering tresses.
She didn't have to be, given that she was so brilliant at just about everything else. Especially at looking and moving like a ... like a ... a duchess, yes. And her singing, of course, but that went without saying. Her tour of the Agatean Empire had been a ... a triumph, yes, and she was still basking in the fuzzy warmth that radiated from the memories of her farewell from Bes Pelargic. The admiring masses had been ... well, admiring her greatly. Yes. Of course, things hadn't worked out quite according to plan. The Emperor had been a bit of a ... a disappointment, yes, and she didn't care at all that he hadn't been impressed by her, because she had been even less impressed by him. He had most definitely not met her ... her standards, yes.
But all that was behind her now. After two years of bringing the gift of her voice to the people in the far-flung corners of the Disc 3), she was back in Ankh-Morpork. Back for real, that was, not just for the couple of interludes when the Ankh-Morpork Opera had made her offers that she just couldn't refuse. Back at last to take what was hers.
She had very pointedly ignored him during her last brief appearance in the city. It was part of her Plan. Only if he was made to feel acutely what it meant to lose her favour, would he be able to see how ridiculous his ... rejection of her had been. Well, by now he would be ready to ask for her forgiveness, and she had every intention, after a bit of hesitation, to graciously grant it. Yes, graciously. And then she would at last gain the position that was due to her.
She pulled her green silk dressing gown close around her waist and reclined on the chaise longue to wait for her toenail polish to dry. Her look wandered idly around the room and fell upon the newspaper that lay folded on the coffee table.
Two seconds later and with no consideration for her nail varnish, she sat bolt upright with the paper in her hands. This was unbelievable! Preposterous! He was acting without any sense, he was throwing himself away, he was...
Glass shattered, water dripped on the floor as Maria Susanna Sanguini chucked the paper at a vase of lilies. This would have made a nice emblem for the very event she was lamenting and only lacked the hysterical spinster diving to catch the flowers. However, Maria Susanna Sanguini was oblivious to such subtleties. She was livid. This appalling course of events could not be put up with, was not to be borne! She would go and...see to it...get her hands on this, this... She picked up the paper again to scan it for the name of the offending person, then she let it sink. She realized that there was nothing she could do to prevent the ... abominable event, because it was happening right now.
A cry of rage escaped her lips and she tore the paper into shreds, which she threw all over the room in a gesture of extreme vexation. Then she rang for her maid to come and clean up. Her anger congealed into a block of solid fury. Nobody crossed a Sanguini like that!
2) You'd think her parents might have had the decency to give her a more appropriate name like, say, Sav'yanda or, possibly, Raven.
3) Not all of the far-flung corners, of course. Only those with good stage management and proper sanitation. 4)
4) Ankh-Morpork was special. You didn't shun Ankh-Morpork for petty reasons like that.
The Great Hall of Unseen University was packed with wedding guests of every imaginable shape and size. Sumptuous flower arrangements were dotted about the room, which was buzzing with the sound of several hundred people's conversations. Ankh-Morpork's most professional catering staff weaved their way through the crowd with trays full of little sausages on sticks 5), while a contingency of plain-clothes watchpersons mingled conspicuously with the chattering multitude.
On a dais at the far end of the hall two stately chairs were occupied by the newly married couple. Lord Havelock Vetinari wore his usual expression of effortless superiority. Next to him, Angelina Vetinari, nee Winter, had a glazed look on her face. She had spent the last two hours listening to an endless drone of names, while the long, long line of congratulators shuffled past and she tried hard to remember who she ought to bow her head to, whose hand she should shake and whose noble presence required her to stand up. On the few occasions when she was about to get it wrong, his lordship had directed her discreetly with a touch on her elbow. Still, she was beginning to feel the strain. The dress was tight and heavy, her hair uncomfortably piled up on her head, and she was in dire need of a figgin. She turned to her husband.
"I think I need a break," she whispered.
"Do not despair, the end of the queue is nigh."
"Who is that man over there again, the one who is staring at me?"
"His Grace, the Duke of Ankh. He is in need of a cigar. Do not let him disturb you."
They both resumed their polite smiles as the next couple was ushered towards them. After another twenty minutes or so, the monumental task of receiving the good wishes of eight hundred people was finally accomplished. At Vetinari's signal a manservant in impressive livery sounded a massive gong and the bride and groom proceeded towards the grand buffet, where they were immediately surrounded by the senior wizards of Unseen University.
"Well, Havelock, this is a splendid day for you," boomed Archchancellor Ridcully while he piled an assortment of venison joints onto his plate. "Your young lady is quite charming, I say!" He winked at Angelina, who was scanning the table for raisin-filled pastry. Vetinari chose a few quail's eggs and a stuffed tomato and casually added a celery stick to Ridcully's plate.
The moment Angelina tried to reach out for a terrine of smoked salmon, two wizards appeared to the left and right of her, each making a grab for a dish on the opposite side, their arms crossing in front of her chest. She stepped back.
"May I recommend these glazed pheasant's breasts? They are a special recipe of our excellent Mrs Whitlow." The Senior Wrangler elbowed aside the Lecturer in Recent Runes and the Chair of Indefinite Studies and thrust a platter at Angelina, who narrowly escaped the humiliation of having pieces of roasted fowl falling into her cleavage. As she moved sideways, she bumped into a particularly rotund wizard.
"Oh, I am so sorry, sir!"
The Dean gave her a jovial pat on the shoulder. "Do not worry, I am well cushioned, if I may say so! Well, my dear, I bet you are glad the long wait is over."
Angelina smiled and made a non-committal nod, since she wasn't sure about the wizard's meaning. The engagement had hardly been a long one, so she wondered if he could be referring to her years of spinsterhood. 6)
"She has a bird on her plate and a bird on her dress, bless her, here comes the bucket of whitewash," chirped the Bursar happily.
"That is a very astute observation on the hermeneutic dilemma of postmodernism, I am sure, sir," said Vetinari smoothly and steered Angelina away towards the principal table. There she sat down gratefully and began to nibble at three marinated chicken wings, which had inexplicably found their way onto her plate. Flanked by Vetinari and Lady Meserole on either side and with her parents, siblings and bridesmaids in view, she relaxed for the first time since she had woken up in the morning.
An hour later and after a rambling speech by her father, the respite was over. The tables were cleared away by skilled hands and one was supposed to mingle. Vetinari disappeared in a cluster of people, and Angelina was separated from her bridesmaids Goldy and Tvoolia almost as soon as she set out. Sidling through the throng in search of her sister Cassandra, she picked up fragments of conversation around her.
"...wouldn't have thought it of Vetinari, but of course he is..."
"...all the way down from Copperhead, and there was no saffron to be found anywhere within thirty miles..."
"...quite used to it, he has been an ape for as long as I can..."
"...think she is quite delightful!"
"She is tolerable, I suppose, but one has to wonder what tempted Havelock to marry her."
Angelina glanced into the direction of that voice and saw it coming from the mouth of a woman whose name she remembered for some reason: Lady Selachii. Hastily she turned aside.
"Never mind, dear," said a large woman with a kindly face, who had come up beside her and taken her by the arm. The Duchess of Ankh, Angelina remembered. "You are a sweet girl, and I am very happy for Havelock. It will do him good to have a bit of kindness in his life. He has been frightfully cynical at times. Well, I have not a doubt of your doing very well together. He is so commanding , that you will never have to make any decisions; so firm, that no servant will dare cheat you; and so rich, that you will never be able to exceed your income."
"I hope, Sybil, you are not giving my wife ideas of extravagance," said Vetinari, noiselessly appearing beside them. "She mustn't think that she'll get rings, harps and dresses every day of her life."
"Oh, as if I would - " Her eyes widened. "Did you say harps?"
He smiled broadly and held out his hand.
"Come, Lady Vetinari, it is time for the dance of honour."
He led her to the centre of the room, where an expectant space had opened up among the crowd. At any other moment Angelina would have felt self-conscious to be watched by so many people, but presently she had something else on her mind.
"I thought it came from Henry!" she whispered as the music commenced.
"Shsht!" said Vetinari. He held her lightly and began to move as poised and gracefully as you would expect from a Member of the Institute of Dance and Deportment. His bad leg gave him minimal trouble. With his lithe steps tracing the music, all she had to do was follow and pretend she fitted into this fairy tale role. Angelina Winter, alchemist, former city employee, without beauty, fame or riches. She knew she didn't deserve him, but she wasn't going to draw attention to the fact.
Vetinari scanned the room while they danced. He perceived the unfamiliar air of goodwill that was flowing towards him today. Years of devoted service to the city had never earned him more than grudging respect, but suddenly people were willing to like him. People wanted to be near him, people wanted to shake his hand. All on account of the affectionate little woman in his arms. Havelock, Lord Vetinari, Patrician and tyrant, despotic ruler without a heart. He knew he didn't deserve her, but sure as anything he wasn't going to admit it.
After the dance, Angelina felt her spirits rise. The glaring eye of the crowd was withdrawn from her now, and an ample group of couples was twirling around the room, her brother Henry with his fiancée Tvoolia the most radiant of them all. She emptied a glass of champagne that had conveniently floated past on a tray. Spotting her mother not far off engaged in conversation with Lady Meserole, she decided to join them, when she saw herself approached by the woman whose face she would not so easily forget.
"Ah, the new Lady Vetinari!" Lady Selachii cooed. "You must find it so thrilling to introduce your family to such an illustrious assembly."
"I am always happy to introduce my family anywhere," replied Angelina evenly.
With a voice like honey, Lady Selachii continued: "I hear that your brother – such a dashing young man! – is engaged to marry a Klatchian seamstress?"
Angelina smiled sweetly.
"My brother is engaged to my good friend Tvoolia Hingh, who comes from Istanzia and is a very accomplished dressmaker."
Casually, she ran her hand along the skirt of her gown. Lady Selachii, though elegantly attired, needed no reminder that she possessed nothing that could match the splendour of the wedding dress. Each peacock feather shone in the crisp perfection of immaculate stitching, and the silk was softer and smoother than anything Ankh-Morpork had ever seen. Of course, Tvoolia hadn't done the embroidery, but Angelina didn't mind Lady Selachii thinking so.
"Oh, do let me see your ring," said Lady Selachii, changing tack. "I am sure Havelock must have chosen the most exquisite diamond for you – oh, dear me, what is that? A pebble?"
"The stone is a Salsalite, which is so rare that it is probably unknown to you. If you look closely, you will see that it exactly matches the colour and texture of my eyes. I was very touched that ... Havelock was able to find such a perfect match without having the original at hand. Yours, I notice, is a sapphire." She kept smiling. Lady Selachii had brown eyes.
"Angelina, do come and tell Brenda about your brother Felix, she is quite smitten with him." Lady Meserole put her arm around Angelina's shoulders and led her away in a cloud of lilac scent. "Are you enjoying this little party, my dear?"
"I think I have just been a right nasty besom," said Angelina with a rueful sigh.
"Good for you," replied Madam cheerfully.
5) Not the Dibbler brand.
6) What the Dean was really referring to, obviously, was the long wait for the start on the buffet.
Night was beginning to ooze into morning. A carriage made its way along Scoone Avenue and turned in at the gate of the Ramkin mansion. It stopped at the front door, which opened immediately, and two figures hurried inside.
In the ghastly pink drawing room, Lady Sybil slipped off her shoes and sank into an armchair. Her husband quickly removed as much of his dress uniform as seemed decent, before he likewise reclined on the first available piece of upholstery.
"You can stop sulking now, Sam, it is over. You made a very fine Best Man."
Sir Samuel Vimes grunted.
"Really, Sam," Lady Sybil continued, "there is no need to be like that. It was a rather splendid affair, and many people enjoyed it tremendously. You might have been a bit more graceful about it."
"You know how I hate crowds like that. And I don't like the idea of having Vetinari married. Not to that woman anyway. What does he see in her?"
"She seems to like him very much. Don't you think that makes her rather special?"
Vimes kicked off his boots.
"He is the Patrician. If he really felt he had to marry, he should have married Rosie Palm. There's a woman who knows how the city works. Failing that, some Klatchian princess or suchlike would have done the trick. Somebody who knows what it means to be a head of state. Not some little alchemist from out in the stalks, who trembles at the sight of the King of Lancre."
"Do you mean to say that in marriage people should not quit the sphere in which they have been brought up?"
Vimes saw where this led and changed tack.
"I hate to agree with Rust, but he's right for once. This woman is going to bring Vetinari down. She'll make him go all soft and soppy."
"Sam," said Sybil with a gently note of reproach, "is that what you think a wife does to a man?"
As Vimes looked at Sybil, his expression changed ever so slightly.
"Not you. I could never say that about you, Sybil. But you saw her, with that doe-eyed expression on her face. And Vetinari hovering over her, playing the role of her protective knight. It shows weakness, and there's bound to be people willing to take advantage of that. It was a humiliating spectacle. I bet he even carried her over the threshold and she clung to him like a limpet."
"Oh, Sam, remember that she has been ill. Besides, she was intimidated, because she was out of her depth. I am sure she will adapt. I have spoken to her, and she seems a sensible woman. The whole situation was a bit too much for her, all those people, the formality of the event, clothes she didn't feel comfortable wearing..."
"Doesn't sound like anything I haven't had to put up with plenty of times," grumbled Vimes.
"Yes, and you usually ran away, Sam."
Gently swaying, the black carriage travelled away from the city towards the seaside. The newly-wed couple inside were enjoying the comfortable silence after the bustle of the previous days. Lord Vetinari leaned back in his seat and looked at his wife. She smiled at him, which for some reason gave him a distinct sense of achievement.
"You know, Angelina, I am really rather pleased. For the price of a stately wedding I get to keep you for life. I consider that a bargain."
"Do you like me better than Wuffles then?"
"You certainly smell better."
"I am surprised that you think you can afford to leave the city again."
"For two days, Angelina. I think a man who cannot spare that much time for his wife does not deserve to have one."
She didn't reply, but she looked appreciative.
"Don't they say that one wedding brings on another? Who do you think will be next?" he asked.
"Tvoolia and Henry, of course, though I'm not sure if they count, since they were engaged already."
"What about your sister then? Does she wish to marry the charming Joaquin?"
She shook her head. "I can't tell you that. It would be breaking the covenant."
Vetinari directed a pointed silence at Angelina. It was one of the few of his little tricks that worked on her.
"Cassandra and I have this covenant of discretion, which means that anything we tell each other in a letter remains a secret between us. Well, apart from obvious things like 'Give my regards to Henry.' But everything else goes under the covenant. We tell each other so many confidential things, that this way is easier than pointing out each single time what we want to be treated discreetly."
"Admirable. So I shall never know what she thinks of me, unless she tells you personally?"
Angelina laughed and leaned against his shoulder.
"No, you won't, you silly man. I'm not telling. Ask her yourself, if you want to know."
"Time for an arbitrary change of subject, I think. So, Lady Vetinari, what is your impression of Ankh-Morpork's high society? Do you think you'll take to it like a duck to water, as they say?"
"Possibly not. I don't know."
"Well, you were thrown in at the deep end, no doubt, but I still hold that you are at least partly to blame for that."
Angelina had not had the opportunity to be introduced to the nobility of the Sto Plains prior to the wedding. Shortly after their engagement had been officially announced, she had rushed off to Sto Kerrig, where her sister-in-law had given birth to a premature baby. Vetinari had doubted the necessity for this endeavour and in fact pointed out that Angelina could be of little use. He had offered to dispatch a couple of very experienced nurses, but he knew in his heart that there was no point in interfering with Angelina's sense of family obligations. So he had resigned himself to the fact that Angelina wasn't just an aunt, but an Aunt. 7) When she had returned seven weeks later, assured of her new niece's safety, she had immediately come down with glandular fever and had overcome the after-effects of this peculiar disease only just in time for some frantic dressmaking sessions.
"Oh, I had to see little Melissa. She's only a newborn once. There will be plenty of time to meet all these posh people. Lord Rust is not very clever, is he? The blonde woman, what was her name again, Lady Venturi I think, she seemed pleasant enough, a bit dull maybe, but one cannot expect everybody to be inspiring. I didn't like Lady Selachii much, she appeared determined to find fault with me. The Duke of Ankh doesn't like me at all, I think, but his wife was very kind."
"Yes, I am sure Sybil will be your friend. I am not going to ask what makes you think Vimes disliked you, because it was obvious enough. But let me tell you that he dislikes practically everybody, apart from his own people. It won't stop him from being fair to you. That's just his essential Vimesness. Straight and fair to a fault. He has always been infallibly fair to me, and he hates me."
Vetinari grinned deviously.
"More than ever now, I would imagine, since I've been so cruel as to call him friend."
"You certainly have a way with people, my lord."
"Angelina!" said Vetinari sternly.
"I am sorry. Havelock. It's hard to get used to it."
"I had no difficulties whatsoever in getting used to your name."
"Well, you are Lord Vetinari and I am not."
"And nothing. That says it all, really, doesn't it?"
"I think I want to kiss you, Lady Vetinari" said the Patrician and did so.
7) He had eventually just sighed and suggested she should ask a certain Rincewind to sell her his travel trunk. Angelina had suspected that he was making some kind of joke, but she hadn't been able to work it out.
Further back and just out of sight, their carriage was followed by another equipage. On the soft, loamy road, the coachman had no trouble to keep track of the Patrician's vehicle. A knock from within made him open the little hatch behind him and turn his attention to the passenger.
"Are you sure you won't lose them?" demanded a female voice.
"I won't, madam. For the kind of money you are paying me, trust me, I won't."