bethbethbeth: Lord Vetinari image from Discworld, with caption: Veni Vici Vetinari (Discworld Vetinari (alpheratz))
[personal profile] bethbethbeth posting in [community profile] disc_fest
Author: [profile] atdelphi/[personal profile] delphi
Title: Youthful Indiscretions
Rating: PG
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Rufus Drumknott, Havelock Vetinari, Leonard of Quirm
Word Count ~1000
Includes spoilers for the following books (or All): No major spoilers.
Warnings/Content Information (Highlight to View): *None*.
Summary: In which a young Vetinari makes the acquaintance of Leonard of Quirm, and Rufus Drumknott is still dealing with the fallout thirty years later.
Author's Notes: My sincere thanks to cathouse_mary for beta-reading.




Rufus Drumknott was not a man who enjoyed the supposed thrill of an exclusive, high-class auction. He much preferred the orderliness of mail-order catalogues, with their tidy arrangement of immovable text and indices, or else the accountability of dealing directly with merchants whose established reputations and warrants hinged upon a successful transaction with the palace. The unpredictability and fast-paced whim of open competition held no pleasure for him. But then, fortunately, Rufus Drumknott was also not a man who demanded pleasure from his professional life.

"Twenty livres, do I see twenty-five? Twenty-five livres, thirty, thirty-five..."

He sat sedately in one small gilt chair among three dozen in the cool marble expanse of the Crescent Auction House in Genua. Paddles fluttered around him as the promise of gold took to the air. This was not his first auction, or even his tenth, although he expected that due to the theoretically finite nature of what he sought and the more practically finite nature of the human lifespan, it could well be his last. That was not for him to decide, however, and so he folded his hands as inconsequential lots were sold for small fortunes, and he waited patiently to carry out his master’s bidding.

*


Havelock Vetinari first met Leonard of Quirm as a young man on the third leg of his Grand Sneer, a fact that might retrospectively be seen as fittingly humorous, if one's sense of humour was of the variety that involved unfortunate tics such as winking and nudging.

The man’s reputation spanned the breadth of ten towns, and Vetinari had heard much about him in the days of travel leading up to the city. Leonard was an alchemist, some said. No, an artist or perhaps a cunning artificer, others maintained. That he was barking mad was a fact generally agreed upon. In the face of such sterling recommendations, it only stood to reason that Vetinari would inevitably be disappointed when he finally had the opportunity to set foot inside the small, dark workshop crammed to the rafters with strange and complex mechanical structures.

Not so.

Wonderstruck, he was in the process of more closely examining what looked to be a large crossbow with a cooking implement at the end of it when someone seized him by the arm. A long, happily zealous face of indeterminate age abruptly filled his field of vision.

"Ah! You must be Francisco's boy. Your nose! Perfect, just perfect! Hurry, the sun moves!"

*


"Two-hundred livres, three-hundred, four-hundred livres..."

Drumknott’s paddle resembled nothing so much as a flyswatter in steady pursuit of a particularly pesky insect when the item he had been awaiting was brought to the block. Unhesitating and undaunted as the sum climbed steadily higher, he countered every bid with the sort of calm perseverance possessed only by a man with someone else’s blank note of credit in his pocket.

He was well aware of the glares and grumbles being sent his way. Hollingberry was in attendance, as expected, and of course De Verge — completist that he was — wouldn't miss a chance to own anything associated with an obscure masterpiece, having gone so far as to bid on a previous lot that contained a scrap of paper marked only with a ring where a cup of wet paintbrushes had once rested. The world of art collectors was small, and they knew him by now, or at least they knew his disguise. One would think that they would likewise know that he always won.

From the corner of his eye, he saw the others grow pale as the price reached unmatchable heights.

"Sold! Lot 35 goes to the redheaded gentleman with the terrible wig and false moustache."

*


Vetinari could not entirely convince his new acquaintance that he had never heard of any Francisco, but shortly after being hustled upstairs into a bright attic studio that smelled of chemicals and paint, he took swift stock of the situation and made an offer: an hour of his time for an hour of his host’s. He was quite keen for a few answers regarding what appeared to be a set of clockwork armour down in the workshop.

“Yes, of course,” Leonard assured him, seemingly as delighted with the prospect of discussing his work as with the task at hand. Then, beaming, he seized his paints and brushes.

The exercise did not prove particularly taxing. It was rather…draughty, true, but Vetinari was well experienced in holding very still in uncomfortable locations. Fortunately, his education had included an entire practicum in hanging from icy windowsills at midnight. He was newly eighteen years old and, having yet to make the acquaintance of a certain lady of Überwald, thought himself fiendishly clever in the bargain.

Camouflage was his speciality, after all, he reflected as the artist set to work. Who here would ever know his face, let alone his…

*


“Bollocks!” Hollingberry cried as Drumknott took possession of Lot 35. “Not again, you miser!”

De Verge joined them, his expression plaintive. “Isn’t it enough you keep the original portrait to yourself? Will you not even let us see the sketches? One private showing, I beg you.”

Drumknott wordlessly left them to their squabble over who would graciously host, slipping out of the auction house and into the road. He took a series of three carriages along a circuitous route, and the large men obviously hired to follow him were easily lost when he abandoned his disguise in the third. Once returned to his rented room, he opened up the leather case and removed the portfolio of sketches that had just been purchased for a sum that made the bookkeeper in him quietly gibber in the corner, private funds or not.

His heartbeat quickened as he stared at a small corner of paper sticking out from the confines of the portfolio, and were he even slightly less loyal an employee or slightly more imaginative an admirer, he might have been truly tempted to peek — to tarry — to hesitate even a wasteful minute in his duties.

Fortunately, Rufus Drumknott was neither of these things.

He threw the portfolio into the fireplace, and the flames flared as the sketches of Nude Youth Holding Pear met the fate of all their predecessors.

Date: 2011-07-31 06:20 pm (UTC)
lyonie17: Hogfather: Death grins. (Death)
From: [personal profile] lyonie17
Ha! Fantastic!

Date: 2011-08-04 03:30 pm (UTC)
delphi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] delphi
Thank you!

Date: 2011-08-01 12:27 am (UTC)
lastscorpion: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lastscorpion
LOL!!! Brilliant!

Date: 2011-08-04 03:30 pm (UTC)
delphi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] delphi
Thanks!

Date: 2011-08-01 04:04 am (UTC)
musyc: Silver flute resting diagonally across sheet music (Default)
From: [personal profile] musyc
HAHAHAHA. Awesome.

Date: 2011-08-04 03:30 pm (UTC)
delphi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] delphi
Thank you. :-D

Date: 2011-08-01 05:47 am (UTC)
woldy: (ook)
From: [personal profile] woldy
Fabulous last line :-D

Date: 2011-08-04 03:30 pm (UTC)
delphi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] delphi
Thanks!

Date: 2011-08-02 03:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] astro-knight.livejournal.com
Oh my god, what a magnificent last line. I am DYING!

Date: 2011-08-04 03:31 pm (UTC)
delphi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] delphi
Thank you!

Date: 2011-08-02 10:57 pm (UTC)
clodia_metelli: (Default)
From: [personal profile] clodia_metelli
I dread to think what would happen if the Times got hold of those cartoons. How lucky Vetinari has a perfectly loyal secretary! (with terrible wig and false moustache). And this is great - I laughed all the way through!

Date: 2011-08-04 03:38 pm (UTC)
delphi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] delphi
Thank you! (And I would so be first in line to buy that edition of the Times.)

Date: 2011-08-03 01:01 pm (UTC)
angrboda: Viking style dragon head finial against a blue sky (Default)
From: [personal profile] angrboda
LOL! That was so awesome! :D

Date: 2011-08-04 03:38 pm (UTC)
delphi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] delphi
Thank you very much!

Date: 2011-08-10 04:42 am (UTC)
lyras: Sparkling tree (Default)
From: [personal profile] lyras
*giggle*

I love Drumknott's viewpoint - you have the tone spot on. And this line: "Lot 35 goes to the redheaded gentleman with the terrible wig and false moustache." ...is so very Pratchettian.

Date: 2011-08-10 05:35 am (UTC)
delphi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] delphi
:-D I do have a soft spot for Drumknott. Thank you for reading!

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