Umm, written after a visit to the magnificent Lyme Park. I tried to get them both in-character, especially him, but constructive criticism is welcome. It's just a little idea that they may be cousins, when it's so obvious that they have to be related. You like?
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to Terry Pratchett (/grovel, worship, etc/). Except the poisons rhyme, which was by Atalantapendragonne.
The thing Sybil always remembered about the huge house her uncle lived in was not the long drive, or the funny smell (sort of a cross between various cleaning products and long-deceased invertebrates). It was not the faintly patterned carpets that sent up small explosions of dust under your feet. It was not even the grim portraits glaring down at her, often with expressions suggesting severe constipation.
It was the ghosts.
They watched your games from corners and darkened doorways. They strangled you, making it impossible to raise your voice far above a whisper without feeling strangely guilty. This, of course, did not trouble her ever-confident cousin.
"One. Two. Three." The boy's voice rang out clear in the musty quietness of the mansion.
She chewed her fingers absent-mindedly, trying to think of somewhere safe to hide.
"Four. Five. Do get a move on, Sybil. Six."
Now, she started to panic. He could always hear her footfalls, no matter how softly she ran, and no matter how muffled they were by the ancient carpets.
"Seven. Eight. May I suggest the counting-pine closet on the second floor? Nine."
"Havelock!" And she ran, fighting down giggles.
"Da - drat!" Sybil staggered out of the closet, brushing snow off her shoulders. "You knew, didn't you?"
"I can't imagine what you mean," replied 15-year-old Havelock Vetinari, closing the cupboard door and following his cousin along the corridor.
"Yes you can," Sybil replied, matter-of-factly. "You suggested it when you knew very well about the da - dratted forest in there. And I hate talking beavers."
But although she would never tell him, Havelock was to Sybil the rough equivalent of the Sacred Fountain of Omniscience. He was, for a start, six years older than she was, with an Education to boot. He knew about history and politics and – obviously – how to kill people, which is infinitely more important when you are nine years old.
Currently, he was teaching her how to play thud, but the lessons often strayed into elementary poisoning, at which Sybil was apparently a natural.
"Poison hemlock, half a day, strychnine, cyanide, right away!" she chanted happily, scaring away a small audience of curious phantoms that had tailed her since stepping out of the counting-pine wardrobe. Havelock nodded in satisfaction, but he seemed preoccupied.
"Sybil," said the young trainee assassin as they stalked the corridors of his family's house one day, "I have news." On receiving no reply, he went on: "My parents want me to move to the Guild, full-time." He looked at his little cousin with piercing blue eyes. "You don't mind?"
Sybil looked at Havelock as though he was stupid. "No, dummy! I've always wanted to visit the Assassin's Guild. Now I can go every day!" Evidently elated by the prospect, she set off down the hallway, singing the names of various tranquilisers to the tune of Ring-a-ring-of-roses (1).
Havelock watched her dark hair as it swung in time to the song, and marvelled at Sybil's ability to be so . . . wrong. There was no way they would meet again for years, at least in the open – Vetinaris didn't exactly go in for get-togethers. Next time they were allowed to meet publicly, knowing his parents, would be when they got engaged or something disgustingly aristocratic like that.
It was a shame.
Havelock hadn't found another human being he could honestly say he cared about. She was so gentle, so kind, and yet . . . and yet she could be so harsh, so utterly Vetinari that it was nearly scary. Missing Sybil was going to affect his performance, no doubt about that. Perhaps it would be infinitely easier to forget all about her.
"Havelock, how did that one-" Sybil spun around, pointing at a picture of some long-forgotten resident of the house, and saw that she was alone. "H-Havelock?" Nothing.
The nine-year-old pouted. "Silly. He'll come back."
He never did, though.
(1) A small children's rhyme about devastating bubonic plague. Innocence is a precious gift, is it not?