Some time had passed since the ballroom had been used (“We have a ballroom?” Sam had asked when the subject had first been brought to him. “What the hell would we do with a ballroom?” But Sybil had sent him a Look before he had had chance to make any further objection. And Lady Sybil was well-versed in Looks), but the dust-covered sheets that until a couple weeks ago had populated the hall like retired ghosts, had barely been an obstacle. The Emmas had descended in force, clearly, cleaning, reorganizing, designing, decorating, and now, with their help and Sybil’s, it twinkled with elegance that out-shone most of its occupants.
It was, Vimes had mused earlier as the members of Ankh-Morpork high society had begun to trickle in, one of the many problems that came of having a wife who could refer to the supreme ruler of the city by his first name. When Vetinari wanted something particularly dissatisfying from the Commander of the City Watch or, gods forbid, His Grace the Duke of Ankh, he knew exactly where to go.
A special diplomatic mission was being sent to the city from Borogravia. “To refortify friendly and mutually beneficial links between our two great nations,” which, as far as Vimes could tell, was diplomat-speak for, “We’re really, really sorry about the burning-down-the-clacks business, now could you please give us some money?”
“And when I mentioned it to Lady Sybil,” Vetinari had added casually when he had informed Vimes of the mission’s impending arrival, “she said you would be perfectly delighted to host a social gathering in their honor.”
“Is there a problem, Commander?”
“Good.” And then, just as casually, Vetinari had said, “Sergeant Polly Perks and Corporol Maladicta von Borogravia will be part of the mission. A gesture of goodwill and Borogravia’s determination to move with the times, I believe. You’ve met them, have you not, Sir Samuel?”
That had gotten Vimes’ attention. And his (albeit reluctant) assent.
He sometimes wondered if the Patrician really could read minds.
And so now the ballroom, until very recently shrouded in dust darkness, sparkled. Most of those Ankh-Morporkians who graced the pages of Twurpe's Peerage had already arrived, plus a few of the city’s less pedigreed notables. Against one wall, a lavish buffet table was laid out, and in one corner stood a small band. The foreign officials had made their entrance, and the dancing had begun.
At the very least, it was set to be an interesting night.