"Sleeping in Gaul, drinking the Styx"
"The Patrician's a bas--- an unadmirable character," Vimes said, "but I'll say this for him. He has as little use for royalty as I do."
Carrot coughed. "Which is a bit odd, actually, since technically Lord Vetinari *is* royalty."
"Technically? Patrician is an elected position, captain."
"Yes, sir. I didn't mean the Patrician, sir. I meant Lord Vetinari personally."
"Huh? How? The Vetinaris are Ankh-Morpork nobility as far back as the records go. Well, Ankh, at any rate. I suppose they must have married into the royal line from time to time, but they've never been on the throne themselves."
"True, sir. But on the Patrician's mother's side--"
"What do you know about the Patrician's mother?" Vimes exploded. He couldn't even remember who she'd been. Sybil would know-- she came from that world-- but Carrot was just a copper like himself, and a foreign copper at that.
"Twurp's Peerage, sir. Very interesting reading of a long night."
"Oh yes. It has people's ancestors listed in tables as far back as you care to go. Very tidy." Carrot nodded approvingly. "And once you've got the names, you can go to the history books for the details-- The Ankh-sextian Chronicles, say, or 'The Cities of the Plains.' They're full of stories, only about real people."
"That's what's called history, captain. But no one ever writes the histories of people like us. People like me, anyway."
"They don't have to, sir. The history of people like you is conveyed by word of mouth, not written down."
"I'm sure it is. In Djelibehbi they probably tell kids the story of 'Sam bloody Vimes, the bugger who put paid to yer Dad's pyramid scheme'."
(The pyramid scheme in question was the brainchild of a wandering Djelibehbi merchant who promised that a dollar placed under his foot-high pyramid for four days would naturally, due to the mysterious pyramidal property of concentration, become four dollars. Which indeed it did. Ten dollars after four days would become forty. A thousand dollars after four days would become 'paid his bill and left three days ago,' a fact that Vimes had been perceptive enough to foresee and forestall.)
Carrot looked shocked. "No, sir, that's not how it works. Children will grow up hearing stories about the great Commander Sam Vimes who brought law and order to Ankh-Morpork, and their children will hear it from them, and their grandchildren in turn. They call that 'the aural tradition'." The quotation marks were audible: Carrot had clearly been expanding his vocabulary. "I'd bet that in later days you'll become a byword in the city. Never-Let-Go Vimes, they'll call you, maybe. Or tell the story of the honest Watchman who married the princess and became the richest man in Ankh-Morpork."
"Sybil isn't a princess," Vimes snapped. A queen in certain ways, but never a princess.
"Well, details *do* get fudged over time," Carrot allowed. "But the basic truth of a man gets preserved, like that saying about the Patrician's ancestor---"
"*I* never heard any saying about Vetinari's ancestors!" Except for 'Sod them', which was Vimes' own.
"That's because it's an Agatean proverb."
"Then how do you know about it?"
"I read it in the Travels of Markpole. The Genuan merchant, you know?"
Vimes blinked, confused as much by Carrot's erudition as by the implications of all this. "Are you saying Vetinari has Agatean blood? That's going really far back. The country's been closed to us since forever."
"Two thousand years and more. But once upon a time Ankh-Morpork used to trade with them regularly. Before they *were* an empire, you understand-- when they were just a bunch of little states like the Sto Plains. A princess from the Agatean country of U ran off with an Ankh noble on his travels, and the Patrician's mother was descended from them."
"The ancient Agatean states are called by the letters of the alphabet. Here, I mean. Because we can't pronounce the names they really did use."
"Well, not can't, exactly, but 'better not try.' Agatean is a sung language, and if you sing a word as a fifth instead of a fourth, say, you can turn 'Your Serene Highness' into--" Carrot blushed faintly "--'goat-buggering parricide.'"
(It should be noted that Ankh-Morporkians are congenitally incapable of singing even their own scale in tune, and indeed rarely sing at all unless drunk. There's a reason Ankh-Agatean trade was largely conducted through cultured Klatchian middlemen.)
"I can see that might be a problem," Vimes conceded. "So Vetinari's descended from a King of U? Who's still remembered after all this time? For what? Murderous deviousness?"
Carrot looked pained. "No, sir. Virtuous forbearance and patient endurance."
Vimes laughed. "That's rich! Well, OK, two thousand years can change a family." He fell silent and then asked, "So what's the story exactly?"
"The King of U waged war on the King of W and lost, because W was twice the country U was. He became a slave in W and served as the king's groom. He lived in a stable and knelt to help the king of W mount his horses, whom he groomed and doctored. After a while he was promoted to grooming and doctoring the king."
"Who then died of a dose of something fatal?"
"Who went from victory to victory under the King of U's care," Carrot said stolidly. "And when W had become the most powerful nation in the area, the enfeebled King of U was allowed to go home."
"Oh," Vimes said. He felt obscurely let down. "And then what happened?"
"The King of U became a benefactor to his people. He lived as simply as a peasant, in his own stables-- maybe he'd got used to the smell of horses? And he remitted taxes and gave away seed corn and established baby bonuses and helped his defeated country get back on its feet again."
"Very commendable," Vimes said grumpily. "Vetinari's certainly inherited his ancestor's tastes, though I can't ever see him providing baby bonuses. Then again, he doesn't have to, Ankh-Morpork being Ankh-Morpork." That is to say, a city with a substantial unattached male population and no reliable birth control, short of what the wizards could come up with. No, make that 'no reliable birth control.' "So the King of U lived to a virtuous if poverty-stricken old age?"
"Yes sir. And ten years after he returned home, he marched his new-grown army into W and blockaded the main city. And ten years after that, the king of W capitulated and surrendered his kingdom. Patient endurance, as I said."
"Ahah!" Vimes said in satisfaction. "I thought so!" He stopped and reflected for a minute. "And there was no slaughter after that, am I right? No sticking heads on poles or annexation of royal concubines? Peaceful co-option, was that it?"
"Exactly, sir. W was amalgamated with U to form a single state that incorporated both names."
"And the King of W? The most powerful king of the region?"
"The King of U, or rather of WU as it should be called, proposed to send him and his closest advisors to colonize the northern part of the country. Err- near where the bloodiest battles with W's old neighbours had happened."
"And the King of W?"
"Responded by cutting his throat."
"Mh," Vimes grunted. "Don't blame him. I generally feel that way myself after an interview with our Patrician."