It's fairly obvious the Patricians of the first few Discworld books, say as far as Mort, were not Vetinari. But what if they were? How might this have come about?
As the noise of the wizard Rincewind being dragged away by the Palace Guards receded, the Patrician exhaled and extended a podgy, beringed, hand towards the dish of candied seafood.
His other hand stroked his double chin and he frowned.
Well, at least the crystallised sea-cucumber is relatively palatable, he thought. And it won't be long before I am secure enough in the position to begin shedding this loathsome disguise.
He comforted himself in the Well-Known Fact that seafood was good for the brain, and chewed with every outward sign of relish. He'd just countered a very real threat to the safety of Ankh-Morpork by agreeing to the demands of the Agatean Empire to do something about the "tourist" Twoflower.
Patrician Havelock Vetinari, a couple of weeks into his Patricianship, had big ideas for the future.
But the future of the City rather depended on his consolidating himself firmly in the Patricianship now. He had ideas to that end. The appearance of an obscenely rich visitor from the fabulous kingdom of Agatea had caused a stir in the City. Vetinari rather felt that might be manipulated to bring about a desirable goal. So many people were fighting for a share of the legendary Agatean gold that he rather felt it would end with serious overkill. Perhaps a flood, or a fire, for preference, that his agents could use as cover to deal with the last remnants of Snapcase's followers and supporters. Earl Hargarth, last scion of a former Patrician, lived in a house in between Mort Lake and the River, on that narrow isthmus that would be Ground Zero for a flood, perhaps, say one made deliberately, when the city's water gates were closed in order to allow the overspill of almost-water to rise and smother the fire lest it destroy the whole city.
But allowing a fire to rage for just long enough and to cause maximum havoc in areas owned by his opposing Lords, thus diverting their attention and seriously interfering with assets and revenue flows… and clearing and rebuilding afterwards, at their expense, could only be an improvement.
He just hoped Rincewind would be stupid enough and tip the situation further down the catastrophe curve.
Vetinari contemplated the temporary ruin of his own body and sighed. It had been the only way: after the fall of Snapcase, the City Lords, knowing none on his own was strong enough to seize the Patricianate without another ruinous and destructive civil war, had looked around for a compromise candidate, somebody young and green and ineffectual enough to be easily manipulated.
This had coincidentally occured as Havelock Vetinari had returned from the Grand Sneer to be introduced to society by his very persuasive Aunt. People had short memories: the slim and active young Assassin had been forgotten by then, and no memories of the death of Lord Winder had been awoken by the grossly obese and bored-looking youth she had introduced as her nephew Havelock. The Master of Assassins had sighed.
Poor fellow, thought Doctor Follet. I'd never have credited it, but he's obviously got into bad habits of over-indulgence during the Sneer. Well, I hope he's retired from the profession, as he's neglected the most important working tool of all. His own body.(1)
Prompted by subtle hints they thought had come from inside their own heads, the City Lords looked at Havelock Vetinari with mingled pity and distaste, and agreed that this was the compromise candidate for election.
Seeing nothing more than a somewhat ineffectual fat boy who could never be taken seriously, they had failed to notice certain actions and decrees that were innocuous in themselves, but potent when taken together.
Granting the Guild of Thieves the freehold in perpetuity of the old Law Courts, for instance, had saddled the newly-recognised Guild with a building that was old, expensive to maintain, and drastically in need of serious repairs. This had also taken an expensive liability off the City's hands. It had also gained Vetinari the goodwill of the Guild of Builders, who now had a lucrative rebuilding contract from the Thieves that the City had not been able to afford.
It put taxation on a secure footing, as a percentage of the proceeds from theft was paid, without fail or shortfall, to the City. Everyone paid; the Guild collected; the City benefited. Unofficial crime was dealt with by the Thieves themselves and as a result the crime rate actually fell – delivering what previous Patricians had promised but been unable to make good on.
And Vetinari was now assembling a list of the names, addresses and personal details of senior Thieves that could be used to enforce compliance.
Best of all, the judges had been retired and the judicial function was now vested in the Palace. This brought Mr Slant on side, seeing an opening to advise and steer the young Patrician in the use of power centralised at the Palace.
Vetinari smiled, enigmatically. He had many other ideas, but all these rather hinged on his being able to survive and consolidate himself in Office.
Very soon – and he'd have to ask Aunt Bobbi's advice – he might even be able to come off the drug, in slow careful increments, and re-assert his old physical shape again, the one he felt most at home in. It could be put down to his deciding to live a far healthier and more austere diet, pressures of office, et c.
But his Assassin training had led him to dangerous experimentation. If the essence of Deep Sea Bloatfish in its undiluted form caused every cell in the body to bloat to a hundred times its usual size and then explode in mere seconds, what if a massively diluted dose were taken, or used as an essence in one's bath so that it only soaked into the outer skin?
Long and careful experimentation had narrowed down the dilution necessary, by a factor of many thousands, to simulate the appearance of gross obesity whilst the body itself still weighed only ten stone. It had taken Vetinari longer to be able to simulate the slightly leant-forward waddling walk of the three hundred pound truly obese.
But he still weighed only ten stone, and any Assassin sent after him would suddenly find the seemingly obese young Patrician to be unaccountably nimble, agile, and capable of telling retribution.
He smiled. Taking it carefully, he could be slim and slender again in a month or two. It would be a blessed relief: having to pretend a gluttony for crystallised seafood, pretending it to be an affectation picked up in Genua, was disgusting to his fastidious senses.
Although the glacé sea-urchin had something to commend it…
He felt a warm dribble down his leg and shuddered.
Now if only his current persona would allow him to have, say, a puppy for a pet, and not the ornamental swamp-dragon that was fashionable among the pampered upper classes…
But there'd be time enough for a pet dog. Later.
He reached down and scratched the dragon behind its ear. Vetinari smiled, mirthlessly.
(1) Doctor Follet had not been thinking entirely logically here. He had failed to understand that while an Assassin's body is important as a working tool, there is a far more important and essential one between the Assassin's ears, one that remains untouched and unseen behind physical obesity.