Thanks to Finlay, Clodia and Andrew Salt. Discworld belongs to Pterry, obviously.
Please note: This story is only about one quarter complete at this point in time. I am posting the first chapter in the hope that the psychological pressure will motivate me to get my act together and get writing. I promise I will finish it.
What happened so far:
In A Winter's Tale pollution levels in Ankh-Morpork have reached life-threatening levels and Vetinari considers it necessary to employ someone to deal with the situation. Only one person, however, is interested in the job: Genteel, but naive Angelina Winter, an alchemist from Pseudopolis. Thrown much together in their endeavour to save the city from an environmental catastrophe, his lordship and Miss Winter gradually develop deeper feelings for each other, but their inability to read each other's signals makes for a few twists before the situation eventually resolves to their mutual satisfaction.
The Vetissey begins with the Vetinari wedding, followed by a honeymoon weekend in a seaside resort. Dubious circumstances lead to the not-quite-so-young couple finding themselves drifting at sea in a sabotaged boat. While their bodies take a tour de force round the Rim Ocean on the trail of Lavaeolus, their minds make a corresponding inner journey during which both adapt to their new roles as lovers. Sandwiched in between this plotline are scenes from Ankh-Morpork, featuring well-loved canon characters and the author's wildly sprouting OCs. The story ends with Havelock and Angelina arriving at the gates of Ankh-Morpork.
Chapter 1: Collin's Personality Enhancer
The opening paragraph looms formidably like that proverbial blank canvas, demanding awe, respect and most of all, quick action. Before writer's block gets a chance to raise its ugly head 1) let us swiftly begin by saying: welcome, if not quite on board (we've left the Suleika behind for good), then at least into the fuzzy warm folds of this tale, in which the narrator, who has been affectionately dubbed the Terrorist Of The Fourth Wall by a fellow wordsmith, will endeavour to delight the esteemed readers with precarious predicaments, pointless punch lines and a complete lack of opportunity for cheap escapism by means of total identification with a fictional character. The question of whether or not this concept constitutes an example of Postmodernism may, with good conscience, be left to the researching endeavours of future generations, but rest assured that narrative conventions will be messed about with to an extent, well, probably to an extent no more drastic than that seen in other ambitious projects, but messed with nonetheless. Trust me. After this introduction, will you read on? Well, it's your choice...
1) Which is, of course, a blockhead.
How shall one describe Ankh-Morpork? How can one even begin to pay homage to the grime, the squalor and yet the grandeur of this city? Ankh-Morpork features more dirt, more acute angles and more buildings designed by B.S. Johnson than all other cities on the Disc combined. Its populace, moreover, is so remarkable that describing it would make a modern sociologist tremble with the excitement of being able to use so many terms beginning with "multi-". The people of Ankh-Morpork are renowned as much for their ingenuity as for their greed and insatiable appetite for street theatre of any kind. Yet if Ankh-Morpork has, over the last few decades, become the place where everybody wants to be, the urban El Dorado of golden opportunities, this is mostly due to the efforts of one man. One man whose eloquence outshines even his cunning and stunning intelligence, one man who can raise an eyebrow as if it were a weapon. One man whose name makes the feeble-hearted blanch: Havelock, Lord Vetinari.
The person currently standing on the bank of the river not far from the Water Gate was not this man. He was, for a start, shorter in stature – though similarly thin – and much younger. His head was covered in curly brown hair and the central feature of his face was a slightly crooked nose, such as might be expected, or at least not unduly surprising, in someone who has had his fair share of less than amicable encounters. His name was Constantin Greenaway and barely two hours ago he had joined the City Watch, a decision that he had not yet had opportunity to regret.
While Constantin Greenaway was, obviously, not Havelock Vetinari, he was, on the other hand, not entirely without a connection to the former Patrician – otherwise the narrator would hardly have mentioned him here. To him, Lord Vetinari was an object of hero worship. Furthermore, he harboured in his chest considerable chaste affection for his lordship's wife, much like the kind one feels for a pet rabbit one has rescued from the fox. The prolonged absence of the Vetinaris from the city, not to mention the distressing fact that they had been declared dead after the university omniscope had shown images of their boat falling over the edge of the world and shattering on the shell of Great A'Tuin, had caused Lance-Constable Greenaway no end of chagrin.
The man who stood just beside the young lance-constable was less concerned with this particular calamity.
"Have you ever thought of letting Om into your life?" asked Constable Visit-the-Infidel-with-Explanatory-Pamphlets.
"Pardon?" Lance-Constable Greenaway looked up from the spot by the river which had attracted his attention and turned to his senior colleague.
"I said, have you ever thought of letting Om into your life?" repeated Constable Visit patiently. "I have a very good leaflet that explains the Path to Om in simple terms for the interested layperson. In fact I have it right here in my pocket, if you would – "
"Should all those bottles be lying about down there?" interrupted Lance-Constable Greenaway, who most decidedly didn't consider himself an interested layperson.
"What? Oh. I don't know. People throw all sorts of things onto the river," said Constable Visit. "Of course, last year they sank, but the river seems to be back to what it was."
"Yes," said Lance-Constable Greenaway with a grim smile. "Her work has been all but destroyed."
"Oh, never mind. But those bottles look odd, you know. There's such a strange, greenish-purple sheen around them. Don't you think we should check them out?"
"They don't seem extraordinary," said Visit. "Just something that's been dumped here from one of the factories. It happens all the time. People have no respect for Om's creation – " 2)
"I'll have a look at them," said Greenaway and strode down the litter-strewn bank towards the abomination that passed for a river in Ankh-Morpork. A little stone jetty protruded into the semi-liquid waters. 3) It looked fairly new and had possibly been built during the brief period of time, nearly two years ago now, when even a small rowing boat would have proven a feasible mode of transport on the Ankh, because the oars wouldn't have had to break through a crust.
Something had broken through the crust now. Two wooden crates had been unceremoniously dumped from the jetty, their contents smashed against the stony ledge at the base. They were little brown glass bottles, maybe two hundred altogether, many of them broken with their contents oozing out into the river in iridescent swirls. The young lance-constable knelt down at the edge of the jetty, extended his arm and, taking care to choose one that was still in one piece, picked up one of the bottles. He held it up and read the label:
Collins' Personality Enhancer
Fed up with being dull, weak and boring?
Try Collins' Personality Enhancer to become the sparkling personality and the centre of attention that you've always wished to be. Half a teaspoonful in the morning before food. Allow four weeks for effect to develop.
Without a word, he passed it on to Constable Visit, who had come up behind him. The Omnian shrugged.
"Mr Collins is a charlatan," he said. "He runs a little factory in Moneytrap Lane. All sorts of miracle cures, you know, against baldness and pimples and, errr, other things." He blushed, his change of colour barely noticeable on his creamy brown complexion. "Something must have gone wrong with this lot, and so it was dumped here. There is a littering law in the city, but we never bother with it. Commander Vimes thinks there are more important things for the Watch to deal with. Though of course we should take better care of Om's creation and – "
"You mean we should clean up this mess?" asked Greenaway.
Visit regarded the sticky liquid and the shards of glass. He scratched his head.
"It's hard to say what the will of Om is in this case," he said.
"Never mind Om," replied Greenaway. "What is our duty as watchpersons?"
"As I said, it's not really a crime. Harry King's people will probably be here soon and take it all away. But I think we should call on Mr Collins and remind him that we all have civic responsibilities. It would be a good opportunity to hand him one of those leaflets I mentioned earlier –"
"Let's go then," said Greenaway and absentmindedly stashed the bottle away in his pocket. Two minutes later the two watchmen were proceeding towards Moneytrap Lane, casting long shadows in the setting sun.
2) Not that Om would want to take credit for this particular corner of the world.
3) For want of a better word.
Elsewhere in Ankh-Morpork, in a marginally less murky and more evenly cobbled street, two figures moved along in a somewhat unconventional manner. The taller, a thin and solemn looking man of about fifty, strode ahead in spite of the handicap he appeared to suffer from a slightly lame leg, while the shorter, clearly female figure was, though obviously more able-bodied, obliged to scuttle after him, periodically catching up with him and then falling behind again as soon as her attention was turned by any of the various distractions provided by the colourful 4) street scenes. Her haphazard progress was matched, if thus one chooses to describe it, by the single-minded movement of her companion, whose gaze was straight and fixed on the hazy semi-distance. He carried a rolled up carpet under his arm. Both were deeply tanned in the way of people who, though usually fair-skinned, have been exposed to sunlight in an involuntary rather than cosmetically purposeful manner, and attired in clothes that might well have been made to measure, but to the measure of someone other than the current wearer.
In this fashion they traversed Hide Park, which at this time of year and day was full of groups of young people roasting sausages over open fires, throwing flat rubber discs at each other and pathetically failing to catch them, and reclining on chequered blankets in pursuit of closer physical contact with members of the opposite, or in some cases the same, sex. At the junction of Nonesuch Street and Myrtle Street, the woman paused by the window of a bakery and inhaled with closed eyes the fumes emanating from the shop door. The esteemed reader, if familiar with the preceding tales, will appreciate the significance of this little scene if he/she/it (delete pronoun of your choice) is informed that the woman's name is Angelina Vetinari, nee Winter, and that the scent she perceived was that of freshly baked figgins. For those in the audience who are encountering this not entirely conventional lady for the first time, let it be said that figgins were to Angelina what honey is to a bear, though quite possibly she would not brave a swarm of irate bees in order to obtain them.
When Angelina opened her eyes again, she could just see the figure of her husband disappear round the corner of Park Lane. Getting lost on her first day back in the city was not very high on her list of approved undertakings, so with a last tantalized look at the shop display she turned and scurried after him. She drew level with his lordship just as he strode past a fish stall. The proprietress observed them curiously, with eyes that seemed to be in disagreement about which direction to take. 5)
"Where exactly are we going?"
"Scoone Avenue. We are going to stay with the Vimeses tonight."
Angelina frowned. Her vision of their return to Ankh-Morpork had not included the Commander's scornful looks.
"But surely we ought to go and see Henry first!"
"I think not. I appreciate your desire to see your brother, but the Assassins' Guild is hardly a suitable place of first contact for a defunct tyrant returning to his former haunts."
"I don't think he stays there anymore. He had just bought a house a couple of weeks before our wedding."
"And where is this house?"
Angelina paused and frowned again.
"Um – I'm not so sure. I wanted to go and see it, but of course I was ill and then – well, I don't really know."
"Aha. Scoone Avenue it is then."
"But wait!" She skipped to keep up with him. "What about Mr Drumknott?"
"What about him?"
"Couldn't we stay with him?"
"But I don't know where he lives."
At this, Angelina shook her head. "I don't believe that!"
"Mr Drumknott is very secretive about his private life," replied Vetinari. "Did you know that he is married?"
"I kind of guessed. But I can't imagine that you wouldn't know. Don't you spy on everybody?"
"Everyone needs someone they trust," said Vetinari. "Otherwise they begin to stick single hairs to their toothbrush, and then there's nothing for it but the scorpion pit."
"But – " With a brief glance at her husband, Lady Vetinari discerned the smug expression around the corners of his mouth and decided to let the matter pass. Instead, she tried to coax herself into a mental frame for meeting Sir Samuel. She had a vague feeling that the commander would blame her for the mishap that had taken the Patrician on an involuntary cruise around the Disc. And in a way, she was to blame, wasn't she? She sighed.
4) Mostly greys, browns and various shades of puke.
5) Miss Verity Pushpram, one of Ankh Morpork's most successful purveyors of fish, had recently gone upmarket quite a bit. Park Lane had turned out to be much more reputable and certainly more lucrative than Rime Street.
Soft, copper-coloured curls shimmered in the glow of the fire, but Lord Downey knew by now that such sweetness and light was deceptive. He observed with a cautious eye the tall, perfectly shaped apparition that was his fiancée, the illustrious opera singer Dame Gina Dulci. Her creamy skin, her shining eyes, the gentle curve of her lips all seemed to promise the most delightful female company, and yet he had found that if anything, her presence made him feel edgy these days. But of course, he should make allowances for the stress to which she was subjected. Her nerves must be suffering. Maybe it would all get better once they were married. Maybe that wonderful sparkle would return...
"You'll have to do something about this, Donald!" said Gina and waved about a gold-edged letter.
"About what, dear?"
"About this King of Lancre. He says they cannot attend the wedding because the Queen is expecting. What a phoney excuse!"
"What exactly do you expect me to do about it?" replied the Patrician. "I can hardly reverse the Queen's condition."
"Oh, tell them they have to come anyway. I insist on it. He is the third Head of State who has sent apologies. I'm not putting up with it! It's an ... an insult, that's what it is."
"I'm sure he doesn't mean to slight you, dear," said Lord Downey and aligned the handle of his teacup with the pattern on the saucer. "But if it makes you happy, I'll send him a note expressing our great disappointment."
"Well..." Dame Gina seemed not completely pacified, but was apparently unable to maintain her complaint in the face of the Patrician's soothing tones 6)
"And another thing," she continued, "is the caterers. I just cannot find a soul in the whole of Ankh-Morpork who is able to make a decent Libum. I ask you, what is a wedding without a Libum?"
"Still a wedding? I don't see why ancient cheesecakes should be so essential."
Gina's eyes flared.
"Donald! A wedding without a Libum is just ... common, that's what it is. It's not to be borne."
Downey bowed his head to her superior knowledge of etiquette.
"I will try and get a Genuan chef, dear."
"Genuan? Impossible! We need someone from Quirm. Only in Quirm do they understand how to make a decent Libum. It's very ... remiss of you not to think of it."
"I'm sorry, dear. I'll see to it in the morning."
Lord Downey sipped the last mouthful of his tea – it was nearly cold now – and replaced the cup in exactly the same position as before. He leaned back in his armchair and stretched out his legs while Gina went over the guest list for the seventeenth time.
6) In the face of a tone - yeah, here's another candidate for the attention of Olaf Quimby II!
And now this was Scoone Avenue, home to the more distinguished citizens of the twin city. It was high enough above the river to afford some impressive views, but not far enough from it to smell of roses, even though the first buds were beginning to open in many of the carefully manicured front gardens. Where Scoone Avenue crossed King's Way stood the residence of Ankh-Morpork's richest and in many ways most remarkable man. It definitely didn't smell of roses, and for anyone wondering why that would be so, the dragon pens round the back would have provided a clue.
"You know, Angelina, I am rather looking forward to giving the Commander a little surprise," said Lord Vetinari. The gravel scrunched under their feet as they walked up the path to the Ramkin Mansion.
"I'm sure you do," she replied and tried to smooth her hair with her fingers. The ride on the flying carpet had done nothing for her coiffure. 7) It was a small consolation to her that, if she had to face Sir Samuel Vimes in a few minutes, the state of her hair would be of very little importance. The last time she had seen him, her hair had been arranged with all the glamour that befitted the Patrician's bride, and yet the commander had looked at her with barely concealed hostility.
Vetinari pulled the bell chord. Shortly afterwards, but not so promptly as to appear vulgar, the door was opened by a liveried butler.
"Good evening, Lady Vetinari, Lord Vetinari," he said smoothly. "May I say how pleased I am to see you back in Ankh-Morpork. I trust you had a pleasant journey. If you would follow me, there is a room prepared for you upstairs. Lady Sybil and Sir Samuel beg to give their apologies. They were unsure when you would arrive and have already retired."
Angelina couldn't help giggling. "So much for the surprise," she whispered, but Vetinari ignored her comment and stepped into the house behind the butler. There was nothing else for her but to follow him. Up they went on a broad staircase and along a stately, albeit somewhat ruffled looking corridor. A chemical smell hung in the air. Angelina inhaled and began to analyze: sulphur, saltpetre, methane...
An hour later, after a welcome supper of soup and sandwiches, the Vetinaris slipped out of their travelling garb and into the nightshirts that they had found laid out on their beds. Angelina's dragged along the floor when she gingerly walked from the nightstand to the bed, and her little figure was almost drowned in lace and linen. She laughed.
"I suppose I should be grateful that Lady Sybil has given me one of her own nightgowns and not something from a box in the attic," she said. Then she sunk down on the bed and clapped her hands together in dismay.
"Havelock, the attic! I've just remembered poor Mr da Quirm. He must have starved to death. How terrible!"
"Dear Angelina, I expect Leonard to be perfectly well. You didn't think I personally waited on him on a daily basis, did you?"
"But you said nobody else knew about the secret passage."
"Indeed. However, the housekeeper knows to comply religiously with whatever orders come down to her in the dumbwaiter. Unless Downey has employed another housekeeper, which I doubt, Leonard will have suffered no deprivations."
He closed the curtains, blew out the candle and slipped into the bed. Angelina pulled the bed cloth up to her chin and snuggled against his shoulder. She sighed.
"What a strange feeling to be back," she said. "It's a bit of an anticlimax, don't you think?"
"Why, what did you expect, the river rising up to greet us?"
"No, it's just... Oh, I don't quite know myself. I just feel like I want to cry. Sorry for being so silly."
"Never mind," he said and kissed her on the forehead. "You're tired. I'm sure you'll feel better in the morning. Good night."
He must be tired, too, she thought. She closed her eyes and soon drifted off to sleep. Out in the murky night, an untimely fog billowed up from the sea and rolled into Ankh-Morpork. The early summer cheer that had spread over the parks and sidewalks received a damper and one by one the sights of the city were blotted out. Hence nobody noticed the river's brief shudder that sent little waves towards the grimy shores.
7) Actually, that is incorrect. It had done a lot of tangling, mangling and general messing about.