The Poor Blighter
"Ah, good afternoon, Your Grace."
Lord Vetinari seemed no worse for the previous night's ordeal save for the missing eyebrow shaved by Nobby's Klatchian egg-whisk* and that his left arm was in a black silk sling.
"My Lord." said Vimes, coming to a natural 'at ease' position before the Patrician's vast desk in the Oblong Office. "Afternoon. Good... yes." Vimes had long learned the lesson of watching his words with Vetinari, letting them out on a short leash lest they turn around and bite his hand. "It looks like it's going to be a fine day." He added grudgingly.
"Quite. And one I am able to enjoy thanks to your good offices last night and the heroic but unfortunately tragic actions of Lance-Contstable Whetrock.
"He was a good lad." In reality Vimes doubted he'd have been able to pick Whetstone out from a line up - or from the wall behind before last night. Now, of course, he'd more closely resemble the gravel the line up was standing on. The Watch had grown too large for Vimes to know or even meet every new recruit. Nevertheless he'd been a Watchman, which, to Vimes, automatically made him a 'good lad'**
"Indeed. You may inform Onyxia that she will be receiving a small token of my gratitude shortly."
"The late Lance-Constable's widow?" The Patrician's remaining eyebrow raised a smidgen of a tiny fraction.
"Ah. Yes, Of course. I'll be seeing her later." Vimes hadn't even known Whetrock had been married. But Vetinari had known. Carrot would know too, Vimes realised gloomily, and probably the condition of her lichen too. The two would have come to the knowledge from very different directions but each would have it.
"I know you will.*** Please bear my condolences for her unexpected loss."
"And speaking of unexpected losses, last night's assassination attempt came closer to succeeding than any have for quite some time. It has made me realise that were I to be successfully inhumed the city would be left with power vaccuum at the top." Vetinari rested his right elbow on the desk, his hand coming up to it's usual 'steepling' position. His left being bound in the sling, however meant he couldn't complete the position. He glanced at his hand for a moment then lowered it to the desk. Even The Patrician couldn't pull of the one-hand steeple.
"Now, before my administration transitions in government of Ankh Morpork have been traditionally celebrated with somewhat untidy riots and a drastic thinning of the ranks of the nobility."
'Not always a bad thing,' thought Vimes, thinking of some of the chinless wonders he was forced to mingle with when accompanying Sybil on her Society functions.
"Now while I know you might consider that not always such a bad thing, I believe you'd agree that on the whole it is an eventuality best avoided."
"You may be interested to know then that, to that end, I have drawn up a document naming the person i believe most suited to... ah... succeed me and lodged it with the Temple of Blind Io to be opened in the event of my demise. I am hopeful that this person would be able to call on the loyalty of the Palace Guard, The City Watch and certain other... resources currently at my disposal to ensure an orderly evolution."
"And what would he do Sir?" Vimes asked, intrigued despite himself, then mentally kicked himself for using the 'S' word.
"You mean side from forestalling a civil war and preventing Mr Dibbler from selling off the Nearly-Gold Throne? Hopefully he'd keep the city running: make sure food and water are brought in, refuse removed, trade flowing and materials plentiful. Keep the dwarves and trolls from staging Koom Valley every Friday night, keep the undead from the necks of young ladies in nightgowns and the torch and pitchfork brigade from the crypts. With luck he might be able to restrain the Wizards from fracturing reality more than once a month and the Priests from declaring holy war on any infidels that might take their fancy. He'd have to maintain relations with our neighbouring states, holding a firm position, appearing not to threaten them while neither seeming ripe for invasion." He paused for a moment. "Is there something I'm forgetting Drumknot?"
The clerk looked up from the ledger he'd been toting up during the interview.
"There's Mrs Cake."
"Ah yes, Mrs Cake. There's always Mrs Cake."
"Why are you telling me this, S... My Lord?" asked Vimes.
"As Commander of the Watch - and one of Ankh-Morpork's leading nobles - I believe it would be your duty to see that the person i have named acheives the office I have bequeathed to him."
Vimes considered for a moment, while he trusted The Patrician about as far as he could throw Detrius, he did trust his judgement.
"You can rely on The Watch, My Lord." Vimes said.
"Very well. You may tell the Duchess that I will be seeing her at Miss Dearheart's fundraiser at the Old Pottery Home." Vimes didn't need any signposts to recognize - or indeed seize upon - any hint of dismissal.
"I'll do that,***** Sir, now, if you'll excuse me?" Another mental kick.
"Certainly, certainly. Any last thoughts on my successor?" Vetinari asked.
"Only that I don't envy the poor blighter the job." Vimes said on his way out, feeling, as ever, like he was backing out of a dark alley in the Shades.
The Tyrant and Ankh Morpork watched the door close. "No, Sam, I never thought that you would." he said to himself.
"Shouldn't we have told him, Sir?" Drumknot asked, not looking up from his figures.
"And spoil his day? Whatever for?" Vetinari asked.
*Nobby, on the other hand was refusing to leave the Watchhouse bathroom and could be heard muttering "He'll go spare! Oh no, I've really done it now,. What will Fred do without me? He'll go really spare!" and so on.
**For a given value of 'good'.
*** He would too.
**** He did.
***** He forgot.
- Grr, can't indent my paragraphs. If anyone knows how please pipe up.