Hello, it’s me again. Recently I was bored and wanted to work on something short and humorous rather than the book I have going, so I sat down and looked through my books. I found Pyramids, the seventh Discworld novel, and figured I’d do an insertion chapter detailing how the hero, Teppic, leaves the Assassin’s Guild to head back to his home. I’ve been told it’s funny, though if you haven’t read Pyramids you probably won’t get all the references. I thought I would post it here for those of you who love Pratchett as much as I do.
Leaving the Guild
Written by Mengde
Based on Pyramids by Terry Pratchett
Teppic entered the darkened room with a careful visual sweep to ensure that its occupant didn’t have any spare deathtraps lying around. When your lodgings were in the Assassin’s Guild, you never knew. Just last week the new recruit… wossname, Barry, that was it, had entered his third period classroom because he left a book and someone had forgotten – or had contrived to forget – to make sure the crossbow wired to the door didn’t have a bolt in it. Nasty bit of business, there.
Said occupant of the room, instructor Mericet, looked up from the papers at his desk and pinned Teppic on the wall like an unfortunate bug with his gaze. Mericet had a bony, harsh face and a lean frame. He, like everyone else in the Guild, wore black.
“Yes, Mr. Teppic?” he asked in his peculiarly dry tone of voice.
Teppic had not been looking forward to this. Mericet had been in charge of most of his training, so he knew what pushed the man’s buttons. It would be easier to make a list of the things that did not push the man’s buttons, seeing as how a list on that subject could be written in the palm of your hand, but there was one thing in particular that made Mericet mad.
“I would like to tender my resignation, sir,” Teppic said, trying to keep his voice level.
Mericet slowly sat up straighter in his chair, not saying anything. Teppic resisted the urge to sweat. Normally you sweated without really thinking about it, but the way Mericet was looking at him gave him a conscious urge to break out in perspiration. The assassin had the kind of cold fury that made you, when being confronted with it, wish you were anyone but the object of its interest.
“Why?” Mericet finally asked.
“Um,” Teppic murmured.
“Well sir, you see, just yesterday Arthur, Chidder and I were having a nice stroll through the city when I was struck by the full force of all the divine power vested in my father, created by thousands of years of his loyal subjects believing the pharaoh is a god, being transferred onto my shoulders due to his untimely death. It tells me that the realm cannot go without a king, so I must return with great haste.”
That was what Teppic would have said if Mericet’s stare was not making him distinctly uncomfortable. As it was, he said, “Troubles at home.”
Mericet nodded slowly. “And these troubles merit your resignation? It was very expensive and time-consuming to train you in all the varied methods of inhumation, you know.”
Teppic swallowed. He knew just how much the Guild spent on each student it trained in inhumation – inhumation being a term created by the Guild for lack of a connotatively positive word for killing someone.
“I’m sure my kingdom can reimburse the Guild, sir…” Teppic began.
“But I am unconcerned with the cost of training you,” Mericet cut him off. “This is not a matter of gain or loss. It is an insult to the Guild. We train you in the art of inhumation and you cordially thank us and run off. I am a reasonable man, but many of my colleagues are not so level-headed.”
“Maybe there’s a way I can prove to them that they haven’t wasted their effort on me?” Teppic asked desperately. “You know, to mollify them somewhat. Show them that I’ll take what I’ve learned and put it to good use back home.”
“Ah, initiative,” Mericet laughed mirthlessly. “Your uncle would be proud. It was really too bad about his untimely and completely accidental death.”
Teppic nodded jerkily and decided not to raise the point of how his uncle’s death had enabled Mericet to rise to his current post.
“So. You need to go home for an indeterminate amount of time, most possibly a long one, but you don’t want to offend the Guild by leaving. How to show them their time has been well spent?” Mericet perused a long list on his desk. “I have several rich targets that clients of ours need inhumed. Perhaps you could take some of them.”
“I don’t think that would work,” Teppic said hastily. “I mean, anyone can inhume some rich sod.”
What Mericet said next made Teppic dearly wish he’d taken up the offer to inhume one of the Guild’s normal targets.
“Not interested in common inhumation jobs, eh? Initiative, yes yes yes. Let me see here, ah-ha. We have a special target, a one-time offer. Nobody’s wanted to take the job yet. How about it?” He raised an eyebrow.
Teppic figured if he refused this then Mericet would probably find an excuse to send him out to kill a dryad or some such suicidal task. “That sounds acceptable,” he said, trying to sound dignified.
Mericet nodded amiably. “Good, good.”
“Who’s the target?”
“Dittius Hex, a seventh-level wizard.”
Arthur and Chidder stared at Teppic in grim silence. When he’d told them that Mericet wanted him to kill – inhume – a seventh-level wizard in order to leave the Guild, they both had started to laugh, then realized that Teppic was serious and quietly trailed off.
Finally, Chidder spoke up. “You’re bloody well serious? Mericet wants you to kill – I mean inhume – a seventh-level wizard?”
Teppic nodded glumly.
“Good luck with that,” Arthur said. “I suspect I should start stocking up on different kinds of pet food, seeing as how there’s no telling what shape you’ll be in next time I see you. Now, are you by any chance trying to cut down on your carbohydrate intake? I need to know to get the right brand–”
“Thanks for the encouragement,” Teppic groaned.
An hour later, word had spread through the trainees and recently graduated assassins that Teppic had to leave, and in order to do so he had to kill a seventh-level wizard. People started coming to him with goodbyes, suggestions, consolations, and life insurance policies.
He was sitting in the lounge when Chidder walked up to him with a bunch of books.
“What’re these?” Teppic asked.
“I went into the Guild library and looked up books on fighting wizards,” Chidder explained. “Let’s see. I’ve got 101 Ways to Kill a Wizard. Looks promising. Wizard Fighting for Dummies. Seems complicated. Magical Encounters: Horror Stories. Probably should save that for last. Fun Facts with Guild Master Antonius Mageslayer. I’ve been told it’s a list of all the different things assassins have been turned into when they’ve failed to inhume a wizard and made him angry. Magic-Immunity Potions and Other Recipes.”
Teppic perked up at the mention of magic-immunity potions. “Let’s have a look at that one.”
Chidder opened it to the first page. “It says, ‘The first thing to remember when fighting wizards is that without one or more of the potions listed in this manuscript, your chances of success are-’”
“Skip that,” Teppic interrupted, but not before he saw a small number next to one that was in the range of quadruple digits.
“Right, right. It says that to brew a magic-immunity potion, you need Dragon’s Breath, Ground Raptor Horn Powder, Wailing Essence, and plain old water.”
“We can find all of those in the Guild alchemical storage room,” Teppic said excitedly. “Here, now, let’s see the brewing instructions.”
Chidder scanned the page and said, “Fill beaker with water. Bring to a boil. Add Dragon’s Breath, stir for two minutes. Add Ground Raptor Horn Powder, bless with the Mixing enchantment. Add Wailing Essence, stir for four minutes.”
“And?” Teppic asked, on the verge of jumping for joy.
“Let simmer for 24 years,” finished Chidder.
Teppic’s grin slipped off his face. “Is there anything else in there that doesn’t require extraordinarily long brewing times?” he asked.
“Let me see,” Chidder said. “I’ll check the table of contents… no… no… nope, no, nope, nope, nope, no, nope, no, no…”
This went on for some time until Chidder said, “Ah-ha! There’s a Quick And Easy Brewing section!”
“What’s in it?” Teppic demanded.
Chidder examined the small, squiggly text, and replied, “Fingernail Growing Potion, Troll Blood Purification Mix, Stupidity Enhancer, and Bowel Freshener.”
“I think I’ll seek help elsewhere,” Teppic decided.
While “elsewhere” is a very loosely defined term, it does not usually mean the bottom of an empty beer mug. In this case, however, it fit perfectly.
Teppic sat at a table in the Mended Drum, the most well-known tavern in the whole twin city of Ankh-Morpork. He stared into his empty mug and thought vaguely about calling for another refill. That would make eine. Neight. More than seven.
Before he could, though, he felt someone sit down at his table. Teppic looked up into the face of an orangutan, who was staring inquisitively at him and was holding a mug in its right hand.
Teppic had heard about this orangutan. He was supposedly the Librarian for the Unseen University’s Library. Information was rather sparse, but apparently he’d been turned into an orangutan by a freak magical accident and hadn’t wanted to become a human again. Something about all the great philosophical questions of life being resolved into the one question of where the next banana was going to come from.
“Oook,” the Librarian said.
“‘Ello,” Teppic said unsteadily. “You’re the Librarian, right?”
“Ah. Intreshting. Interestatating.” He hesitated for a second, then finished lamely, “Intriguing.”
“Yeah, I feel the same way,” Teppic admitted. “Can you keep a secret?”
“I’m suppos’d to inhume this wizard guy. Hittius Dex. Dittius Hex, that is. Seventh-level. Dunno how I’ll go about it.”
The Librarian thought about this for a moment, then replied, “Oook.” He started making a jabbering motion with his hand. Teppic focused on it.
“Sharades? Charades, that is? I’ll play. Umm.” He looked at the Librarian’s hand. The ape would make it flat, holding it so its fingers pointed to the ceiling, then bringing its thumb up and its fingers down. “Like a mouth closing, only a lot,” Teppic said. “Oh. Oh. Talk.”
“Oook,” the Librarian said affirmatively. Then he started holding up his index and middle finger.
“Up? Point?” Teppic muttered.
The Librarian waggled the two upright digits.
“Oh. Two. Two. Talk to,” Teppic exclaimed proudly.
“Oook.” Then the Librarian started to hum a little tune. He couldn’t hold a note, but it got the desired message across… that is, after a good deal of thinking on Teppic’s part.
“Hum. Sing. Serenade.” The Librarian altered the tune a bit. “Oh. Focus on the name. Um. Song. Music. Ditty.” The ape nodded vigorously. “Ah,” Teppic said, pleased with himself. “Ditty. Talk to ditty.”
The Librarian waited patiently for Teppic to make the connection.
He kept waiting.
Eventually he ambled off.
When Teppic noticed through the haze, some time later, that the Librarian had disappeared, he thought it was odd. Then, in the fashion of one who has just remembered what it was one was going to say, exclaimed, “Talk to Dittius!”
The next morning, after a bit of sobering up, Teppic went out and walked to the gates of the Unseen University. They stood barred. Not literally, of course, since they were held shut by magic in times of emergency, but they were closed in a very no-nonsense, bugger-off-you’re-not-welcome sort of way.
Teppic shrugged, walked around the premises, and went in through the back.
Unseen University was old. That was what was most prominent about it. The wood was old, the stone was old, the statues were old. There was a prominent feeling of age that permeated everything.
“Excuse me,” he asked a passing wizard, “where can I find Dittius Hex?”
“Seventh floor, when you see a big candlelit hallway it’s the fifth door on your left,” said the man without bothering to look Teppic in the face.
Teppic didn’t think it very odd to be talking to the man he had been asked to kill. Frankly, he figured that Dittius wouldn’t find it very odd, either. Wizards did many things for the sake of doing them, many more because nobody had done them before, and whatever they did do they did it with flair.
For example, Teppic had heard that wizards could interrogate Death himself with the Rite of AshkEnte. The Rite only called for a couple people, three small sticks, and four cubic centimeters of mouse blood, but wizards couldn’t abide any magic that wasn’t showy, so they usually assembled all the ranks, pulled out hundreds of ominous drippy candles, drew pentagrams and mystic runes on the floor, and only stopped short of sacrificing virgins because there was a shortage.
A short while later, Teppic knocked on the door, heard a faint “Enter,” and entered.
Dittius Hex was the typical wizard: old, with a craggy face, long white beard, pointy hat, and the fashion sense of a… something with a peculiar and total lack of fashion sense. He looked up from the book he was reading, which was chained to his desk to keep it from getting away – magic books are not by any means ordinary – and squinted at Teppic over half-moon glasses.
“Yes, young man?”
“Erm… hello. You’re Dittius Hex?”
“I am he,” he replied formally.
“My name’s Teppic. I’m an assassin.”
“I can tell. Only assassins wear such distasteful amounts of black.”
Teppic refrained from commenting that the wizard’s choice of color scheme could probably blow out the eyes of common fowl and plowed onward. “You see, I’m the heir to my kingdom, and my father’s just recently died, and I must return and take up the mantle of leadership. The Guild would be offended if I just up and left, so, I told them I’d prove that they’d done a right good job of training me. Then they told me to inhume you.”
Dittius laughed. “I like you, young man. You’re quite honest. Come in, don’t stand in the doorway like a salesman, I’ve got a spell that polymorphs anyone who stands there for more than thirty seconds.”
Teppic immediately jumped inside. It did not make him feel better to see an errant troupe of ants walking through the door be transformed into a flock of miniature sheep.
“You wizards let salesmen into the Unseen University?” Teppic asked as he picked himself up off the floor.
“Old habits die hard, lad. I went and lived in Sto Lat when I was a fourth level.”
“Must have been horrid,” Teppic commented politely as he gingerly closed the door behind him.
“Oh, it was. Anyway, what can I do for you?”
Teppic blinked and said, slowly, “I need to inhume you.”
Dittius pursed his lips, muttered “Inhume?” to himself, and snapped his fingers. A dictionary bounded off a shelf and onto the wizard’s lap, then opened to the “I” section. He read aloud, “A term for the killing of a person or persons developed by the Assassin’s Guild in recent times for lack of a connotatively positive term for said actions.” He frowned. “I always thought ‘to put out of one’s misery’ was pretty positive.”
“But it implies that the target for, um, inhumation is miserable,” Teppic corrected him respectively. “We inhume lots of happy people too.”
“I’m sure you’re very proud,” Dittius said dryly. “Well, I’ve never been the target of the Guild before. Am I supposed to make a speech?”
“No. A good deal of all inhumations occur when the subject is asleep, so a speech is not a requirement.”
“There are so many possibilities,” Dittius said happily. “Think of the fun we could have. You know, like in those wonderful fantasy novels. Midnight roof chases, crossbow shots in the dark, would-be assassins being blasted with Bligrie’s Bloated Boils spell, the manifestations of which could take place over the course of several chapters–”
“Yes, yes,” Teppic interrupted hurriedly. “I was just hoping that, you know, we could arrange this so I could inhume you without actually having to inhume you.”
“Oooh, that sounds marvelous,” Dittius squealed. “There was this one manuscript – sublime writing – where the hero was trying to get into the enemy encampment, desperately wanting to rescue his lost love whom he married but was tragically separated from by a sudden ninja attack before they could consummate in mutual bliss… anyhow, he feigned his own death to get into the encampment and everyone lived happily ever after.”
Teppic mulled this over for a while, then said, “The ninja attack seems rather improbable, but the feigning death part sounds excellent. How shall we go about it?”
“I have the perfect plan,” Dittius replied, with a gleam in his eye. “You go back around to the front gate, and yell, ‘Dittius Hex, I, Teppic of-’” He stopped for a moment, then asked, “Where is it you come from?”
“The Old Kingdom.”
“Thanks. As I was saying, go back around to the front gate and yell, ‘Dittius Hex, I, Teppic of the Old Kingdom, hereby do challenge thee to a duel of honour!’ And I shall be coincidentally strolling in the garden, and I shall thrust open the gates and cry out, ‘Cursed knave, thy darest to challenge me, Dittius Hex the Great Conjurer of Magics and Potent Sorceries?’ And you will yell, ‘Yes, I do thus dare! Show me thy supposed power!’”
Teppic nodded eagerly. “Sounds good. Then what?”
“Then we take it into a public square somewhere, and I’ll cast a few spells, don’t worry they won’t hit you or anything. I’ll then cast Letreus’ Pyrotechnical Homing Sine Wave, which will follow you around, and you’ll dodge it and then in a great display of cunning rush me, jump over the wave as it approaches and make it hit me. I will stagger, and in my moment of weakness you’ll mortally wound me with this dagger.” Dittius rummaged around in a desk drawer and then pulled out a long, straight dagger. He pushed on the blade and it smoothly disappeared into the handle.
“Oh, neat,” Teppic said.
“Yes, I got it off a group of traveling actors. Look here,” and at this he popped open a hidden compartment in the handle, “you can load this part with some fake blood – I’ve got some in a drawer somewhere, for this kind of occasion – and when the blade goes into the handle it’ll come out again all bloody!”
Teppic felt himself grinning in spite of himself. He hesitated for a moment. Was he really going to subvert the will of one of the most powerful Guilds on the face of the Disc and make a jest out of the great and solemn tradition of inhumation?
Damn straight he was.
“Okay, ready,” Dittius called over the gates.
Teppic made sure the false dagger, which was loaded with the false blood, was secure in its sheath. He harrumphed to clear his throat, and then bellowed, “Dittius Hex, I, Teppic of the Old Kingdom, do hereby challenge thee to a duel of honour!” He made sure that everyone around could hear him place the “u” in front of the “r”. It was more traditional.
The gates to the Unseen University dramatically flew open. Less dramatic and more comedic was the way they smacked into five people and sent the unfortunates into a parabolic arc that landed them in a gutter, a fruit stand, a window, a fountain, and a hay cart, respectively.
Ignoring them, Dittius stormed out angrily. “Cursed knave, they darest challenge me, Dittius Hex, the Great Conjurer of Magics and Potent Sorceries?” Under his breath, he said happily to himself, “It sounds even better than I thought it would!”
Teppic yelled back, “Yes, I do thus dare! Show me thy supposed power!”
Dittius trundled up to him, and the two rather anticlimactically strolled to the nearest public square and took up positions at opposite ends.
“Now, where were we, sorcerous rogue?” Teppic cried.
“You were challenging me, Dittius Hex, Great Conjurer of–”
“Quit posing!” someone in the audience yelled.
“Oh, fine,” Dittius muttered. He disliked being cut off in the middle of his speech. It was like being forced to do the Rite of AshkEnte with only two friends, three sticks, and four cubic centimeters of mouse blood.
He raised his staff dramatically, made sure it caught the light of the sun and glinted slightly, then pointed it at Teppic. Octarine fire erupted from the end of it. Teppic and the audience, of course, saw a sparkling blue projectile fire off from Dittius’ staff and shoot towards Teppic.
Teppic did a showy dodging roll to the side. The magic bolt exploded against the cobblestones bare inches from where he had been standing. Of course, that was several feet from where he was now, but it was still very dramatic. Dittius fired off more bolts, and Teppic timed his dodges so the projectiles got ever closer and closer. He could feel the crowd’s hush of anticipation, as well as hear the occasional “Get your sausages! Ninepence a sausage, an extra twopence for a bun!”
Dittius gave a cry and raised his staff above his head with both hands, then brought it whizzing down to connect with the ground. A big, sizzling red wave of magic rumbled towards Teppic. Dittius had just cast Letreus’ Pyrotechnical Homing Sine Wave. Teppic rolled to the left, glanced over his shoulder and saw the wave begin to curve around in pursuit. He feigned surprise, a bloody good touch right there, he thought, and then gave a grin, as if a good idea had just occurred to him. He sprang to his feet and ran straight at Dittius, the wave following him. As it neared his feet he jumped, and the wave, which of course was completely harmless – hence the term Pyrotechnical, it was used for light shows – expended its energies when it hit Dittius.
The wizard gave a bereaved cry and fell back, leaning on his staff. With a flourish, Teppic drew the false dagger, and gripping it tightly, gave a cry of triumph and stabbed it against Dittius’ chest. Dittius, to his credit, gave a very good groan and fell to the ground.
The crowd roared in approval, and Teppic swung around on his heel, holding the dagger high in the air in victory.
Abruptly, the crowd went totally silent. Teppic blinked, wondering what was wrong, and then felt something trickle down his wrist.
Slowly, a bad feeling rising in his gut, he brought the dagger down to inspect it.
The blade was perfectly clean. Teppic had held the handle too tightly, and in doing so had burst the secret false blood compartment. It was dribbling down his arm.
The citizenry of Ankh-Morpork had a burning hatred for staged fights. Teppic gulped and prepared to make a run for it. Dittius was quietly humming a tune, a satisfied smile plastered on his face. He was still totally unaware of their predicament.
Suddenly, Mericet materialized out of the crowd. He strode over to Teppic and said in a loud voice, “We thank you all for attending this excellent demonstration of how to kill a wizard. It has been sponsored by the Assassin’s Guild. If you have anyone you would like inhumed, please drop by our offices. Act now and you will receive a special one-time discount. It is valid only for the next ten minutes. Thank you, and have a nice day.”
He didn’t mention that unless you could fly, you couldn’t make it to the Assassin’s Guild from the square in ten minutes. It was too far to run, and horses were out of the question because it was rush hour.
Mericet turned around and beheld Teppic standing there, dumbstruck, while Dittius got up and brushed his robes off.
“A pleasure doing business with you,” the wizard said, and shook Mericet’s hand. “Teppic, this was quite fun. We must do it again sometime. Ta.” With that, Dittius turned about and walked back into the Unseen University. The gates closed behind him.
Teppic finally got his voice back. “You had this set up with Dittius all along?” he asked, surprised.
Mericet smiled, though that was not saying much, as his definition of a smile was his chronic frown smoothing out slightly. “Yes, of course. The Guild is extremely interested in your royal lineage. We frankly don’t know why your father sent you to us to be trained as an assassin. Kings don’t kill people, they have their followers do it. What kings need to do is be crafty and have good imaginations. This was just a test.”
“Ah,” Teppic said. “So, I can leave?”
“The papers are all filled out,” Mericet replied. “I do dislike losing such a promising assassin, but I myself would resign if I had a kingdom to go rule. Good fortune to you.” With that, he disappeared.
Teppic just stood there, more surprised than he could recall having ever been.
After a short while the Librarian ambled over to him. “Oook?”
“Oh, yes. They got me,” Teppic said. “I suppose you were in on it, too?”
“Well. I have to say, you played the role convincingly.”
“You’re welcome. Now, I think I should go.”
Teppic shook the Librarian’s hand and walked off.
Hope you enjoyed. Thanks for reading.