Inevitably I like Lord Vetinari, and inevitably I like Lady Margolotta, and thus, inevitably, I like Vetinari/Margolotta though I am not convinced that they actually are, ahem, these days. So I wrote my first discworld fic. The end contains implicit spoilers for (some of) the end of Unseen Academicals.
*Bear in mind that there are still plenty of people about who don’t think one should have to do anything as vulgar as apply for an Oxford professorship. Interviews only became a requirement in the nineties.
The vampire Lady Margolotta did not drink ... wine. Wine, on the other hand, was an old friend, though not beer, which gave her wind. Food was tedious, but these days sadly necessary. Still, at least these days breakfast was less likely to run screaming round the room damaging the furniture. A small bowl of porridge might not be exciting, but one could read the newspaper whilst eating it. Abstention from ... wine was a small price to pay for a white rug that stayed that way and a mind diverted from the lust for blood into a craving for politics. Nevertheless, as the proponents of many a diet franchise* know and rely upon, it is so often the forbidden fruit that tastes the sweetest, and the stronger the denial the greater the desire, and the greater the desire the greater the chance of accidentally eating a naive young estate agent. Margolotta had given some thought to this danger, and whilst recognising that the simple message is best for the masses, the individual might do well to consider the words of the Ephebian philosopher Aristocrates, “The wise man practices moderation in all things, except for the saxophone”.
Moderation was much the most sensible course, and if Lady Margolotta was not quite the particular sort of sensible woman her appearance suggested (at least when not traditionally dressed. It is hard for any woman to look sensible clad in an underwired nightie), she was a very clever and long-lived one. And so although she never touched ... wine, from time to time Margolotta tempered temperance with a small sherry, served in a lead crystal glass that showed off the colour and kept the ... sherry at precisely the right heat thanks to a tiny lightning-powered heating rod invented by Igor.** As for the thrill of frightening people, that could be obtained very easily by frightening people. Likewise seduction, although that presented its own difficulties these days, survivors with delusions that something very lucky might happen more than once being much less easy to clear away than corpses. Wasn’t a long life free of mobs with pitchforks and garlic, the rule of a significant proportion of Uberwald above ground, and a mind clear as crystal, hard as diamond, distracted by nothing in pursuit of the singular goal by means of manifold paths, wasn’t this worth the one renunciation of the sweetness in the mouth, the singing in the body, the dark storm in the soul? Wasn’t it? It had been less than a decade out of three centuries of life, not time enough to say she would never go back, but enough to know she would not go back now. Because the other thing that ...sherry reminded her was that whilst blood was good, it was not good enough.
So here she stood for the first time in a century, drinking wine in Ankh-Morpork, pearl of cities, a brittle gem in a stew of slime. Ankh-Morpork, that might have been hers had she not allowed curiosity or something else to get the better of her at the time, had she only closed her teeth on the bare throat and drunk. She might have done nothing more, and now Havelock would have been hers to control. Of course, she reflected over the really quite passable wine (she had been relieved to learn that Vetinari’s loyalty to his city did not include serving the local vintage), she would probably have been dead with less than the usual prospect of becoming undead again, because he had undoubtedly laced his own blood with poison against such an eventuality. But the world would have been a duller place without Havelock as he was, and she wouldn’t have wanted Ankh-Morpork in any case. The air stank. Besides, however much of a power it might be becoming, the city covered, when all things came down to it, rather a small piece of ground, much of which barely qualified for the description. Havelock Vetinari might be the Patrician, but Margolotta allowed herself to be known by her first name not simply because she was, technically, a woman and people would do it anyway, but because her last name*** was after all, Uberwald, and sometimes one didn’t want to be too obvious. Which was why the vampire Lady Margolotta was very, very annoyed at how things had worked out with the orc. Oh, the raising of Nutt was a good deed well done and a philosophical triumph. Havelock had drunk to her success, and she had managed a convincingly unconvincing smile and refrained – and the Black Ribbon was certainly a help here – from seizing him by the throat and draining his blood. But Uberwald was attracting interest, and Margolotta had many plans and a great deal of power and influence, but some day soon somebody was going to notice that she was conspicuously lacking in armies. Of course, she genuinely wished to help the orcs, to bring them out of the muck and the darkness to relieve their misery, and to teach a lesson in trust and decency and tolerance to everybody else. That she might have had at her command a small horde of civilised monsters capable of twisting a man’s head off with one hand whilst penning a sonnet with the other was merely an unconsidered side-effect. She would never have asked them to do it. It wouldn’t have been necessary. But the little man might at least have been grateful. Nor had it escaped Margolotta’s attention that Havelock had secured Nutt the job in the University, and that Havelock had undoubtedly been aware of what breed of kind and comely and surprisingly ruthless young cook lived nearby in the below-stairs world. There wasn’t much point in being Tyrant if you didn’t know where to get the best pies in the city; ’Did you see that they held hands all the time?’ Margolotta very much hoped she would not need to do something about Havelock. Not least because it would be very hazardous. How old was he? How many years did he have left? Thirty, thirty-five, if she did not – she would not, though the world would be duller without him. From outside the great hall came the distant sound of a pair of gates being replaced on their hinges. They turned together towards the stairs.
‘What is a pie,’ said Vetinari, ‘to a happy ending.’
‘It lasts longer.’
‘Let us hope it is not so in this case.’ He held out his arm. ‘I believe that Miss Sugarbean has not entirely overcome the habit of years, and has left a small tin of dainties with Drumknott to apologise for the gates. They do not, I fear, contain pickled onions, but I understand her to be a dab hand with a candied violet. Madam?’
* And disgraced televangelists.
** And because Margolotta Amaya Katerina Assumpta Crassina Von Uberwald (in the short form) had not attained her present station in life by ever missing an opportunity, she had established under another name and at a convenient distance a small factory to manufacture the device for sale to more traditional vampires, and indeed vampyres.
***Four pages later.