A/N: Neither Discworld, or the show I nicked...I mean, borrowed a quote from belong to me. Unfortunately.
'The desert is not required,' [Vetinari] said. He sighed again and pushed the pages aside. 'Have you heard about the lost continent of Leshp?' he said.
'Oh, yes, I did some sketches there a few years ago,' said Leonard. 'Some interesting aspects, I recall. More tea? I fear you've let that one get cold. Was there anything you particularly wanted?'
[Leonard] had just opened out his easel to start work on a new design when he was aware of a distant pattering. It sounded like someone running but occasionally pausing to hop sideways on one leg.
Then there was a pause, such as might be made by someone adjusting their clothing and getting their breath back.
The door opened and the Patrician returned. He sat down and looked carefully at Leonard of Quirm.
'You did what?' he said.
'I'm sorry, my lord?'
Vetinari took a step into the room, his eyes narrowing. 'Did you just say that you did some sketches on Leshp a few years ago?'
'Oh, yes, my lord,' said Leonard, turning his attention back to the blank paper in front of him. 'There was some rather interesting architecture, as I recall.'
'How long ago was this?'
'A while ago. I'm not sure when.' Leonard absently-minded began to sketch in some buildings that seemed to be covered with stone friezes of variously-tentacled sealife. 'I think it was before you became the Patrician.' He shook his head. 'I never did pay much attention to that sort of thing, I'm afraid.'
'Yes, but how long ago was it exactly?' stressed Vetinari. He took another step forward and closed the door behind him carefully. 'This is important, Mr da Quirm.'
'Well, like I said I'm not really--'
'I...Maybe twenty...no, twenty-five years ago. I think.'
'I see. And how long were you on Leshp?' continued Vetinari in the same careful tone. 'Be as precise as possible.'
'Oh, well let's see...' Leonard scratched his head thoughtfully as he tried to remember back through the years of portrait-painting and inventing to something as unremarkable as a continent suddenly appearing in the middle of the Circle Sea. '...oh yes, I was travelling to Klatch to see if I could find one of their fire birds. Have you ever heard of them? Remarkable creatures, my lord. They're supposed to be some kind of myth but there had been a number of sightings of them in the area in recent years and--'
Vetinari took a deep breath and smiled tightly as he resisted the urge to grab the man by the shoulders and shake him until he returned to the topic at hand. 'Leonard. Leshp?'
'--the nesting habits in themselves are extraordinary and--' Leonard blinked. 'Oh yes, I'm sorry, my lord. My mind does tend to wander a bit, doesn't it?'
'Yes, quite. Now how long were you on Leshp for?'
'About a...yes, a week or two, as far as I can recall. It was rather surprising really,' said Leonard, a man who for whom no understatement was too small. 'One minute we were sailing along quite merrily, the next there was this terrible smell and the ship was sitting in the middle of what appeared to be a city plaza. It caused rather a large delay in my journey, needless to say.'
'And what happened next?' asked Vetinari in the same tight voice.
'I did what anyone would: I made some sketches. As I said there was some interesting architecture, and the mosiacs there were simply breath-taking--'
'What happened with Leshp?' stressed Vetinari, shoving his hands into his pockets in an effort to prevent himself wrapping them around the inventor's neck in sheer frustration.
'Oh, a while later it disappeared beneath the waves once more,' said Leonard blithely. 'I imagine that once the gases that facilitated the rising of Leshp escaped, the sheer weight of the rock caused it to sink again.' He noticed Vetinari's quizzical look. 'Very porous rocks, my lord. The gases trapped in them from reacting with the seawater lifted Leshp to the surface. Of course, this is all hypothetical on my part.'
'Ah.' Vetinari stared at the wall opposite for a moment then sat down in a nearby chair and steepled his fingers. "So based on this information...would it be possible that such a thing would happen again? Leshp sinking again a few days, without a trace of it to be found?' he said slowly.
'Oh anything is possible, my lord.'
'Quite. But this particular thing, Leonard. Is it possible?'
'It's entirely possible. Of course it would depend on the amount of built-up gases that were contained within Leshp itself, but any difference would lead to a shorter time on the surface more then anything. But I would need to check the levels of the gases myself in order to provide you with a proper estimate.'
'You'd be able to tell that just by travelling to Leshp?'
'Oh no, my lord. Underneath it.'
'I see.' Vetinari leaned forward and pinched the bridge of his nose. He sighed. 'I don't suppose you have some handy little contraption that I don't know about hidden somewhere in the city ready-made for such an expedition, do you?'
'Actually I did make prepare a little something a few years ago in case the situation arose again,' said Leonard. 'But it was more of an exercise really.'
Vetinari froze. 'But there actually is one?' he asked, a small glimmer of hope entering his voice. 'That could be used now?'
There was a pause.
'Well, I'm not sure whether it'll be completely sea-worthy now, my lord. It has been a number of years since I was able to check on it...and we'll need someone to provide the necessary manpower...'
'Capital!' Vetinari coughed and stood up, brushing the dust from his robe. 'Capital,' he repeated, his voice returning to its usual calm tones. 'I'd like you to prepare a list of things you think we'll need for a short voyage, Leonard. Essentials only please.'
'Oh? Have you had an idea, my lord?'
'Yes.' Vetinari smiled. 'Yes, I dare say I have.'
He left the workroom and quickly made his way back to his office, opening the door to see Drumknott standing at his desk.
'There's been another flurry of activity at the Klatchian embassy, sir,' said Drumknott, depositing an armful of papers onto the desk. 'It would appear that there's some disagreement over the best way to deal with Prince Khufurah.'
'But not with us, it would seem.' Vetinari picked up the topmost sheet of paper. 'Does Clerk Brian really need to underline the word war so heavily every time someone says it? It does tend to add a rather alarmist edge to the embassy transcripts.'
'I'll have a word with him, sir.'
'Hmm.' Vetinari set the paper down on the desk tapped his fingers on it thoughtfully. 'So the Prince's bodyguard is refusing anyone else access to the Prince. That is interesting.'
'Indeed. What a nasty, suspicious little mind policemen must have,' said Vetinari, smiling. He opened a drawer and pulled out a blank envelope and a piece of paper. 'Drumknott, I need to see the City Council immediately.'
'Yes sir.' Drumknott glanced down at the envelope. 'Would you like me to deliver that, sir?'
'Oh no, I believe Lord Rust will be more then happy to do so,' said Vetinari, addressing it and blotting the ink carefully before sealing a blank piece of paper inside.
'Lord Rust, sir?' said Drumknott, frowning slightly.
'Yes. I'll be stepping down this afternoon for the duration of the...situation at hand.' He leaned back in his chair and waved a hand. 'I've never been one for the military solutions. No, Lord Rust is much more suited to that death and glory business then I am.'
Drumknott's mouth fell open. 'You're--you're resigning, sir?'
'No, I'm stepping down for a while. Taking a backseat as it were.' Vetinari noticed his secretary's stricken expression. 'Oh don't look at me like that, Drumknott. I'll be back.' He paused. 'Probably.'
'Okay, possibly. I'll possibly be back.' Vetinari sighed. 'It rather depends on Leonard. We'll be taking a little trip in one of his contraptions.'
'But I thought you said the only way you'd let Leonard try out one of his flying machines would be if you could strap Lord Downey into it and have it thrown off the Tower of Art, sir?'
'Yes, but we won't be using one of those, thank goodness. Although that would be fun to see...' said Vetinari absent-mindedly, his mind suddenly full of happy thoughts. ' That reminds me, we'll have to pick up...no, we can do that on the way...'
'Oh, nothing. Nothing. Best if you don't know, in case the Commander asks,' said Vetinari, waving a hand languidly. He leaned forward suddenly. 'Actually there is something very important I need you to do while I'm gone, Drumknott. I cannot stress enough just how important this is to me personally, do you understand? I'm entrusting you with this.'
'Yes sir,' said Drumknott, smiling proudly. 'Don't worry, sir, I'll make sure Lord Rust doesn't do anything too silly with the city while you're away.'
'The city? Oh, don't worry about that. I can take care of that from Klatch,' said Vetinari with a frown. 'No, I'm talking about Wuffles. Now listen very carefully; you're to give him his pink tablet before every meal and his blue tablet fifteen minutes after it. You'll have to put him directly in front of his food bowl, his eyesight isn't very good these days because of his cataracts. Oh, and there's an ointment, You'll have to rub it into the bottom of his tail...'