Fandom: Terry Pratchett - Discworld
Written for: marie laveau in the Yuletide 2008 Challenge
by Merlin Missy
Thanks go to Amilyn for the beta!
Warnings: het, slash, extreme footnoting
Fairy tales in most parts of the multiverse quite often remind the little minds listening to be careful what they wish for in case they actually get it.* On the Discworld, which is flat and revolves on the backs of four elephants which are themselves on the back of the star turtle Great A'Tuin, not only does the intrepid fairy tale adventurer have to worry about getting what he*** wished for, but also the wish's mum, dad, annoying layabout brother who swears he'll get a job next week, and all the wish's uncles, aunties, and third cousins twice removed as well as the wish's elderly and incontinent poodle-terrier mix.
Wishing is dangerous business. For one thing, the wisher may find him or herself in need of a much bigger house.
*At least the fairy tales revolving around the adventures of young souls seeking their fortunes as opposed to the tales about young maidens awaiting their true loves to rescue them, which remind little minds that a lass can do nothing without a good man with a sword.**
**This particular lesson leads more thoughtful young ladies to consider doing without the middleman.
***or she and her sword
Susan has never been adept at dating. Her unique background means she has ended more than one romantic evening with a dash away to wash (and beat) her hair, while leaving her various beaux with an uneasy sense of just having avoided a nasty snakebite or worse.
And of course there was that unfortunate and short outing with Dudley, in which the funeral procession went by for the Honorable and Not Quite Dead Yet Frederick Witherspoon. Susan had found the bouquet of cheap flowers in her hand replaced with a familiar-looking sword, a transparent note attached with a gossamer thread: "BUSY WITH PLAGUE IN HOWONDALAND, PLEASE HANDLE. LOVE, GRANDDAD." Climbing aboard the funeral coach in front of everyone was out of the question, so she'd steered Dudley from their planned outing to a spontaneous picnic. In the cemetery of Small Gods. Aside from the pesky ghosts ("Who's this, then?" "Impertinent to my mind, eating on someone's grave." "Is that egg and cress?") and the Death of Rats doing some cleanup work after the caretaker had put down some poison (and trying to steal crisps when he thought Susan wasn't looking), and Dudley looking over his shoulder at the funeral going on twenty feet away, Susan was having a very bad day. As soon as the funeral broke up, and the grieving children were led away with promises of a stuff drink and a nice inheritance, Susan stomped over to the grave and loosed Mr. Witherspoon's at-that-point-relieved soul from his Yes Finally Dead Now body. By the time she returned to the picnic blanket, Dudley was gone, Rat had eaten all the crisps, and no amount of shooing could convince the ghosts that they had passed beyond egg and cress, even on top of their own graves.
Dating has been hard.
So her new relationship with Lobsang Jeremy Time comes as a bit of a relief. He's always punctual, he's already met her family, he doesn't mind her side job and in fact is a major contributor to it, and when the time comes to navigate the waters of actual dates, he's fine with ordering takeout, staying home, and making their own entertainment full of the other kind of little deaths.
Nanny Ogg's latest foray into literary pursuits is going the fictional route. Mr. Goatberger, after the war settled between the Engravers Guild and the newspaper, sent her a letter all the way from Ankh-Morpork asking if she would be interested in putting her pen to paper, and sugar packet as need be, for the education and delight of her thousands of readers. Oh, and if she'd refrain from sending Mss. Weatherwax to his offices again, she could expect a tidy bonus upfront.
Her girlhood, so adventurous as to be legendary in its own right, is the subject of her first book, though she has changed the name of her star character to Thyga, secure in her conviction no one will know it's her. Perhaps she's embellishing Thyga's girlish beauty a touch, and throwing in a mite more tragedy than is strictly true* but Nanny has heard about poetic license and intends to have Shawn bang one up for her for the King to sign one of these days.
The book, unsurprisingly, is a best-seller, and the sequel, featuring Nanny's even more adventurous adulthood, is in hot demand. She's about halfway through chronicling her antics with Casanunda when Esme shows up at her cottage unannounced. She doesn't say anything, except thanks for the tea which one of Nanny's daughters-in-law brings, but she stares, and she scrapes the spoon in the teacup, and Gytha confesses everything.
*While young Gytha Ogg did have a stepmother and stepsisters, her stepmum was in fact very kind to animals and her sisters had the same amount of housework as she did. Also, while there was indeed a brief abduction by a pirate in her past, it was in fact her second husband-to-be, and they had to come back home when her water broke a stones-throw from the cottage, so the wedding had to wait after all. To be fair, climbing the ladder back up really did seem tragic at the time. Also slippery.
When King Verence receives an anonymous note saying the town of Lancre could use a proper school, and with none of that nonsense about who can and can't be educated, and perhaps the local witches ought to be consulted when hiring the poor bastard* who'd be the teacher, and also a small but tidy sum of money to start the business, he immediately sets aside his work on designing Lancre's second sewer system** and begins plans for the school.
He's bright enough to ignore the fact that the note is written on sugar packets pasted and that he saw Shawn Ogg leave them at Verence's seat at the table during breakfast.
**The first is already in place, and consists of privies, compost heaps, and things to feed to the pigs. Verence has ordered books about civic plumbing, and is planning on laying pipes all through town and bringing Lancre kicking and screaming into the Century of the Fruitbat.*** A more cynical observer might consider that giving such an industrious king the idea to build a new school would be equivalent to distracting Bloody Stupid Johnson**** from his own latest work of inventive genius by handing over the Discworld equivalent of an Erector set and running for the hills. The cynical observer needs to remember that witches like indoor plumbing to be where they know it is: safely hundreds of miles away. Indoor privies are unhygienic.
***Last century. King Verence knows the limits of his power, and if he didn't, Queen Magrat would be sure to remind him.
****If you need a footnote for this, you oughtn't be reading Discworld fanfic, ought you?
Kingship is not something that weighs on Carrot's mind. Of course he's made a study of the Palace, with the Patrician's full permission, and he has spent time at the museum looking at portraits of the long-vanished members of the Ankh-Morpork royal family, and read histories of the city, and even attended, at great personal risk, Nobby's group - the Peeled Nuts - as they reenacted scenes from the Civil War. When he walks the city streets, rare is the face that doesn't light up in recognition of his, and while he doesn't know absolutely every lane and alley the way Mister Vimes does, Carrot's feet have walked the length and breadth of his domain, and wound their way through shops and past fountains and into the homes of people who need his help. He lends a hand when needed and he brings justice when they call. He has fought for his city and these people, and if Mister Vimes is right about the trousers of time, he's died for them too, somewhere, somewhen.
In days of old, queens were expected to hold the heir to the throne in one arm and beat would-be invaders over the head with shanks of mutton with the other. If the queen could then order a legion of floury giantesses to cook the mutton as a filling supper for three hundred while her husband did a bit of exterior decorating in a heads-of-your-enemy motif, so much the better. The queens of Ankh-Morpork* had devolved into a limp bunch, concerning themselves with exquisitely-designed miniature dollhouses and torturing servants over tea, while their husbands' decorating habits had also devolved into a heads-of-people-who-were-late-on-taxes-or-rather-too-popular-or-looked-at-me-funny motif.
Carrot can picture Angua as a warrior-queen, sword in hand, protecting her home from lawlessness and despair. Of course, it's easy to picture since she does this every night.
Rarely, very rarely, the Patrician will make a half of a suggestion of a comment in Carrot's presence, the ghost of a wonder regarding Carrot's ambitions towards the unoccupied throne. Carrot has thus far steadfastly refused comment, knowing that he already has everything any real king ever wanted, plus two grandmother's funerals vacation per year.
Anyway, he prefers decorating with maps of the mine back home.
*That is to say the royal queens, and not members of the Galah, lately imported from EcksEcksEcksEcks.
Vetinari never worries. Over many years, he has arranged things so he doesn't have to worry, merely pull out whichever plan he has already put in place for whatever eventuality has come to pass, or is going to come to pass, since he has also made a point of knowing what's going to happen well before the people making it happen know. Precognitive abilities* are nothing compared to making the future exactly the shape you intend. While generous with his coins when he passes Ankh-Morpork's fine fountains**, he never wishes. He knows that danger already, and again, he always arranges to have what he wants, often by knowing what it is other people want.
So it's curious that he never once anticipated what Lady Sybil wanted, at least until now. Being a highborn lady of good old aristocratic stock, she has wanted for nothing except an extra hand to muck out the dragon pens, or so he always believed. Instead, he is here, having accepted what he thought was an invitation to one of Lady Sybil's famous parties.*** When he arrived, to find no other carriages, the butler Willikins led him into the back, where Lady Sybil had installed ...
"I'm sorry, what do you call it again?"
Lady Sybil says, "A Very Large Bubbling Bath With Water Pumped Through Jets (And Attached Loofa). It's an old da Quirm design. I found the picture in the margins of a book on pipe organ construction, but Mr. Lavatory on Mollymog Street assured me the plumbing wouldn't be difficult."
"I see." He makes a note to have a talk with Leonard later.
"It stays warm, apparently even in winter," she goes on, oblivious or perhaps quietly amused by his discomfiture. "And as you can see, just a tiny bit of soap results in a tonne of bubbles."
"Yes." The bubbles cover every surface, and Lady Sybil is a magnificent surface to be covered in white foam. Her husband has sunk down so low that his head is barely out of the water, bubbles arching over his hair and face. All Vetinari can see of him are the eyes, the scowl, and the cigar. Just enough bubbles swirl for Vetinari also to see that Vimes and Lady Sybil have forgone their clothing. "I must ask. The nudity?"
"Oh, Mister da Quirm was very detailed in his drawing," says Lady Sybil primly. "Besides, drawers would be unhygienic."
Willikins appears beside him with a fluffy white towel and a perfectly stoic expression.
With a sigh, Vetinari bends down and begins to untie his boots. If he made wishes, he'd right now be wishing Leonard was there. Drowning seems appropriate to the occasion.
He stays until the very last bubble pops, about two days later.
*See Mrs. Cake. Or, if you're like most of the not-undead population of Ankh-Morpork, don't.
**It says so in the official brochure. Per this particular application, "fine" includes a previously-unknown definition of "containing so-called water of a consistency slightly more viscous than glue and often of a color normally found in the sluices outside stockyards." The language has since cried and run home to its mother tongue.
***Dignitaries and guild leaders fought for the privilege of watching to see how Commander Vimes would sneak out this time. Vetinari suspects Vimes knows about the cottage industry growing among the Guild of Gamblers to lay odds on all his movements and activities, and occasionally changes those activities in order to collect for the Watch's Widows and Orphans Fund. Vimes is a bastard, really, but Vetinari likes him anyway.