A Princess for the City

by Tale Swapper

Chapter 1: Chapter 1: Royal Arrival

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“Have you ever thought about where the word politician comes from?” –Havelock Vetinari

In some worlds, it was, perhaps, a dark and stormy night. Indeed, on the disc, it usually would be; the gods prefer the proper ambiance for their games, and the introduction of a major new piece is the type of dramatic moment the disc itself would find appropriate to whip up a storm.

However, the gods absolutely hate the introduction of a new player[1] and the turtle doesn’t pay much attention to the other worlds it so causally passes by[2], so there was no thunderstorm, no dramatic crack of lightning at just the right moment, and certainly no punctuation of an ill-timed wish by thunder.

There was just the swish of a ragged broom upon the cobblestones, and a soft pop as the fate of two worlds was altered…

Lord Havelock Vetinari, Patrician of Ankh-Morpork paused for a moment as he idly marked off the third diplomatic correspondence of the evening. After the arrival of the steam train to Ankh-Morpork, he’d been able to visit his fellow rulers in foreign nations much more easily, but by and large he needed to stay here and keep juggling all of the hundred and one different ways the city might fall apart.

Vetinari was not a cruel man, nor a base one. He knew that forces which could destabilize his city were common- indeed, the last few times the city was stable was because it was busy being hammered by an outside force.[3] The best thing to do was to take all the intrigues, plots, and problems and play them against each other. As long as no one power gained a decisive advantage, the city would keep running.

As he turned back to sign his latest correspondence, he heard hurried footsteps approach his office. Looking up, he bemusedly raised an eyebrow at the disheveled figure walking into the room[4]. The man, his blond hair askew, quickly pulled himself to order; if it hadn’t been Vetinari watching, he wouldn’t have even noticed the lapse.

“Yes, Drumknott?” said Vetinari, frowning. Drumknott never ran in the office.

“My lord, there’s been a… disturbance, with the throne.” Drumknott said. “We do not know whether it was an attempt to steal it or not, but in any case-“

“Hold on. Which throne?” Vetinari’s brow furrowed for a brief moment. “I know the Klatchian throne has been changing hands occasionally ever since-“ He looked up startled as Drumknott shook his head.

“Not a throne as in a seat of power, my lord,” he said. “The physical throne, here in the palace.”

Vetinari leaned back in his chair. “Someone tried to steal it? They’re welcome to it, if it doesn’t fall apart on them when they take it.[5]

“Well, my lord, as I said, we’re not certain if they were trying to steal it, but it has been… replaced.” Drumkott said nervously.

“Replaced? Replaced with what?”

Vetinari blinked several times. At the top of the dais which had once held the throne, the gilded chair he had looked upon many times was absent.

In its place was a caricature of what a child thought a throne should be- a large, red-velvet backed chair of gold, upon a single layer of gold-washed marble. The imposing thing was sitting exactly where the old throne would be, and more disconcertingly, its base appeared to have melded onto the plinth at the top of the stairs. A small white cushion sat on the chair.

Vetinari turned to Drumknott. “When did this happen?”

“The guards outside say they heard a bang, then a howl of wind, my lord. That was not a third of an hour ago. They looked in, saw the change, and then sent a message through the clerks. I came to see it first, then came to tell you.”

Vetinari nodded. Looking closely at the new throne, he noticed a distinct sun motif covering the back and top. He frowned. “Drumknott, do you know of any heraldry which matches that symbol?”

“No my lord.”

“Hmm. I would be disappointed with you, Drumknott, but neither do I…” Vetinari’s voice trailed off as he noticed a tiny bit of movement from the top of the plinth. Looking more closely, he noticed the cushion shift slightly. “Has anyone approached the throne?”

“No, my lord.”

“And have any pets come in through the doors? Cats, perhaps?”

“No, my lord. The guards have kept…”

“I see.” Vetinari moved to the base of the plinth and stepped up the stairs. “In that case, we should probably get a wizard to handle that creature.”

“What creature?” said Drumknott, moving up to join his master. Then he saw the rise and fall of the little animal perched upon the throne. “Oh…”

“Yes, it must have come through with the new throne.” Vetinari stopped in front of the chair. “I can’t see what it…”

As soon as he spoke, the little creature stirred, then looked up, blinking owlishly at the somber clad Patrician. A golden crown sat, askew and far too large upon its head, and a pair of pink eyes blinked below a brilliant pink mane. Four little hooves spread out under the creature, and the horn atop its head moved as it fluttered its wings.

Vetinari blinked. For the second time today, he was actually surprised.

The little creature blinked up at him again. “Hello!” she chirped in a high pitched voice.

Vetinari was surprised again. He composed himself instantaneously. “Hello,” he cautiously responded. He realized that this could be the solution to his confusion. “Do you know whose throne this is?” he asked.

The little creature giggled. “It’s mine!”

Surprise struck for the third time in a single day, a record which hadn’t been broken in twenty-eight years. “Oh dear.”

Drumknott composed himself again. “Should I prepare one of the diplomatic chambers, my lord?”

Vetinari found himself unable to take his eyes off the little… Four limbs. Hooves, with odd coloration. Snout, not muzzle. Tail long and wavy. A little pony, perhaps. He absently replied. “Yes, but summon one of the wizards anyway. We will need their help. I think.”

Author's Notes:

[1] The return of the Great God OM to their playing ground being only one of the reasons why.

[2] Yes, a turtle. The disc is a normal world as magical worlds go- a flat circular plane balanced upon the backs of elephants (once five, now four) walking in a circle upon a massive turtle, which swims through time and space. Round worlds such as ours are the anomaly for fantastic worlds- once magic gets thrown into the mix, things like gravity and physics are the first thing to go.

[3] Save one instance where then-Commander Vimes left the city for a few days. Then the whole city got quiet; if Vimes came back to find the city a mess, the first mess-maker he’d found would have regretted everything he’d done, and most of what everyone else had, as well.

[4] Even when hurried, no one barged in on Vetinari. The closest most people came to running were the messengers, and even they slowed to a trot by the time they reached him.

[5] Used sparingly for a century, then unused once people stopped trying to crown themselves king, the Throne of Ankh-Morpork could be considered a metaphor for the city itself. It was gaudy, opulent, and gilded, and had the structural integrity of a snow fort in high summer. Vetinari, when he bothered to sit in the throne room, usually sat at a desk at the base of its dais. p>

Next Chapter: Chapter 2: Strange Little Things Estimated time remaining: 18 Minutes
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