Interesting Times

His Lordship appears only briefly here, but the description of the relationship between him and Archchancellor Ridcully is particularly skillful.

Warning: There be mild spoilers ahead. You have been warned.

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Scene the...
First His Lordship's relationship with the Archchancellor of Unseen University explained; the two respected leaders share a convivial drink; Archchancellor Ridcully attempts to engage in political dialog.
Second Lord Hong displays his simultaneous knowlege and ignorance of the people of Ankh-Morpork.
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It was, as always, a matter of protocol. Of discretion. Of careful etiquette. Of, ultimately, alcohol. Or at least the illusion of alcohol.
Lord Vetinari, as supreme ruler of Ankh-Morpork, could in theory summon the Archchancellor of Unseen University to his presence and, indeed, have him executed if he failed to obey.
On the other hand, Mustrum Ridcully, as head of the college of wizards, had made it clear in polite but firm ways that he could turn him into a small amphibian and, indeed, start jumping around the room on a pogo stick.
Alcohol bridged the diplomatic gap nicely. Sometimes Lord Vetinari invited the Archchancellor to the palace for a convivial drink. And of course the Archchancellor went, because it would be bad manners not to. And everyone understood the position, and everyone was on their best behaviour, and thus civil unrest and slime on the carpet were averted.
It was a beautiful afternoon. Lord Vetinari was sitting in the palace gardens, watching the butterflies with an expression of mild annoyance. He found something very slightly offensive about the way they just flittered around enjoying themselves in an unprofitable way.
He looked up.
'Ah, Archchancellor,' he said. 'So good to see you. Do sit down. I trust you are well?'
'Yes indeed,' said Mustrum Ridcully. 'And yourself? You are in good health?'
'Never better. The weather, I see, has turned out nice again.'
'I thought yesterday was particularly fine, certainly.'
'Tomorrow, I am told, could well be even better.'
'We could certainly do with a fine spell.'
'Yes, indeed.'
They watched the butterflies. A butler brought long, cool drinks.
'What is it they actually do with the flowers?' said Lord Vetinari.
The Patrician shrugged. 'Never mind. It was not at all important. But - since you are here, Archchancellor, having dropped by on your way to something infinitely more important, I am sure, most kind - I wonder if you could tell me: who is the Great Wizard?'
Ridcully considered this.
'The Dean, possibly,' he said. 'He must be all of twenty stone.'
'Somehow I feel that is not perhaps the right answer,' said Lord Vetinai. 'I suspect from context that "great" means superior.'
'Not the Dean, then,' said Ridcully.
Lord Vetinari tried to recollect he faculty of Unseen University. The mental picture that emerged was of a small range of foothills in pointy hats.
'The context does not, I feel, suggest the Dean,' he said.
'Er...what context would this be?' said Ridcully.
The Patrician picked up his walking stick.
'Come this way,' he said. 'I suppose you had better see for yourself. It is very vexing.'
Ridcully looked around with interest as he followed Lord Vetinari. He did not often have the chance to see the gardens, which had been written up in the 'How Not to Do It' section of gardening manuals everywhere.
They had been laid out, and a truer phrase was never used, by the renowned or at least notorious landscape gardener and all round inventor 'Bloody Stupid' Johnson, whose absent-mindedness and blindness to elementary mathematics made every step a walk with danger. His genius...well, as far as Ridcully understood it, his genius was exactly the opposite of whatever kind of genius it was that built earthworks that tapped the secret yet beneficent forces of the leylines.
No-one was quite certain what forces Bloody Stupid's designs tapped, but the chiming sundial frequently exploded, the crazy paving had commiteed suicide and the cast iron garden furniture was known to have melted on three occasions.
The Patrician led the way through a gate and into something like a dovecot. A creaking wooden stairway led around the inside. A few of Ankh-Morpork's indestructible feral pigeons muttered and sniggered in the shadows.
'What's this? said Ridcully, as the stairs groaned under him.
The Patrician took a key out of his pocket. 'I have always understood that Mr Johnson originally planned this to be a beehive,' he said. 'However, in the absence of bees ten feet long we have found...other uses.'
He unlocked a door to a wide, square room with a big unglazed window in each wall. Each rectangle was surrounded by a wooden arrangement to which was affixed a bell on a spring. It was apparent that anything large enough, entering by one of the windows, would cause the bell to ring.
In the centre of the room, standing on a table, was the largest bird Ridcully had ever seen. It turned and fixed him with a beady yellow eye.
The Patrician reached into a pocket and took out a jar of anchovies. 'This one caught us rather unexpectedly,' he said. 'It must be almost ten years since a message last arrived. We used to keep a few fresh mackerel on ice.'
'Isn't that a Pointless Albatross?' said Ridcully.
'Indeed,' said Lord Vetinari. 'And a highly trained one. It will return this evening. Six thousand miles on one jar of anchovies and a bottle of fish paste my clerk Drumknott found in the kitchens. Amazing.' [Transcriber's note: Good old Drumknott. It would appear that he's becoming quite a useful chap.]
'I'm sorry?' said Ridcully. 'Return to where?'
Lord Vetinar turned to face him.
'Not, let me make it clear, to the Counterweight Continent,' he said. 'This is not one of those birds the Agatean Empire uses for its message services. It is a well-known fact that we have no contact with that mysterious land. And this bird is not the first to arrive here for many years, and it did not bing a strange and puzzling message. Do I make myself clear?'
'This is not an albatross?'
The Patrician smiled. 'Ah, I can see you're getting the hang of it.'
Mustrum Ridcully, though possessed of a large and efficient brain, was not at home with duplicity. He looked at the long vicious beak.
'Looks like a bloody albatross to me,' he said. 'And you just said it was. I said, isn't that a --'
The Patrician waved a hand irritably. 'Leaving aside our ornithological studies,' he said, 'the point is that this bird had, in its message pouch, the following piece of paper -'
'You mean did not have the following piece of paper?' said Ridcully, struggling for a grip.
'Ah, yes. Of course, that is what I mean. And this isn't it. Observe.'
He handed a single small sheet to the Archchancellor.
'Looks like a paintin',' said Ridcully.
'Those are Agatean pictograms,' said the Patrician.
'You mean they're not Agatean pictograms?'
'Yes, yes, certianly,' sighed the Patrician, 'I can see you are well alongside the essential business of diplomacy. Now...your views, please.'
'Looks like slosh, slosh, slosh, slosh, Wizzard,' said Ridcully.
'And from that you deduce...?'
'He took Art because he wasn't any good at spelling? I mean, who wrote it? Painted it, I mean?'
'I don't know. The Grand Viziers used to send the occaisional message, but I gather there has been some turmoil in recent years. It is unsigned, you notice. However, I cannot ignore it.'
'Wizzard, wizard,' said Ridcully, thoughtfully.
'The pictograms mean "Send Us Instantly The Great",' said Lord Vetinari.
'...wizzard...' said Ridcully to himself, tapping the paper.
The Patrician tossed an anchovy to the albatross, which swallowed it greedily.
'The Empire has a million men under arms,' he said. 'Happily, it suits the rulers to pretend that everywhere outside the Empire is a valueless howling waste peopled only by vampires and ghosts. They usually have no interest whatsoever in our affairs. This is fortunate for us, because they are both cunning, rich and powerful. Frankly, I had hoped they had forgotten about us altogether. And now this. I was hoping to be able to dispatch the wretched person and forget about it.'
'...wizzard,' said Ridcully.
'Perhaps you would like a holiday?' said the Patrician, a hint of hope in his voice.
'Me? No. Can't abide foreign food,' said Ridcully quickly. He repeated, half to himself, 'Wizzard...'
'The word seems to fascinate you,' said Lord Vetinari.
'Seen it spelled like that before,' said Ridcully. 'Can't remember where.'
'I'm sure you will remember. And will be an a position to send the Great Wizard, however he is spelled, to the Empire by teatime.'
Ridcully's jaw dropped.
'Six thousand miles? By magic? Do you know how hard that is?'
'I cherish my ignorance on the subject,' said Lord Vetinari.
'Besides,' Ridcully went on,' they're, well...foreign over there. I thought they had enough wizards of their own.'
'I really couldn't say.'
'We don't know why they want this wizard?'
'No. But I'm sure there is someone you could spare. There seems to be such a lot of you down there.'
'I mean, it could be for some terrible foreign purpose,' said Ridcully. For some reason the face of the Dean waddled across his mind, and he brightened up. 'They might be happy with a great wizard, do you think?' he mused.
'I leave that entirely to you. But by tonight I would like to be able to send back a message saying that the Great Wizzard is duly on his way. And then we can forget about it.'
'Of course, it would be very hard to bring the chap back,' said Ridcully. He thought of the Dean again. 'Practically impossible,' he added, in an inappropriately happy way. 'I expect we'd try for months and months without succeeding. I expect we'd attempt everything with no luck. Damn it.'
'I can see you are agog to rise to this challenge,' said the Patrician. 'Let me not detain you from rushing back to the University and putting measures in hand.'
'But..."wizzard"...' Ridcully murmured. 'Rings a faint bell, that. Think I've seen it before, somewhere.'

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Know your enemy. Lord Hong had decided to find a worthwhile one. So Lord Hong had seen to it that he got books and news from Ankh-Morpork. There were ways. He had his spies. At the moment Ankh-Morpork didn't know it was the enemy, and that was the best kind of enemy to have.
And he had been amazed, and then intrigued, and finally lost in admiration for what he saw...
I should have been born there, he thought as he watched the other members of the Serene Council. Oh, for a game of chess with someone like Lord Vetinari. No doubt he would carefully watch the board for three hours before he even made his first move...


Let him just walk down Broadway as owner, and eat the pies of the famous Mr Dibbler. Let him play one game of chess against Lord Vetinari. Of course, it would mean leaving the man one arm.

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This page last futzed with: 11/21/00