At last, Sir Terry, we must walk together
Thursday, March 12th 2015: Sir Terry Pratchett died at home in Wiltshire following a long battle with Alzheimer's. BBC report, 3:26pm GMT
From Discworld & Terry Pratchett Wiki
Motto: NIL MORTIFI, SINE LVCRE
No killing without pay
Also known as the 'Conlegium Sicariorum'.
This is one of the most powerful among the Guilds of Ankh-Morpork. The current head of the Assassins' Guild is Lord Downey, who took over after his predecessor, Dr. Cruces, was killed by Carrot Ironfoundersson during the events of Men At Arms. Its Guildhall is topped with a weathervane like a silhouetted assassin poised to inhume the wind.
The traditional Assassins' hand signal is that of two fingers pressed against a thumb - the otherwise-universal sign for money. Without which, of course, assassination wouldn't take place. They do not murder indiscriminately, as that would be rank bad form. No, no, they are not common killers. They would take that most ill, should you be rash enough to suggest it. No, they are merely gentlemen who, for a consideration, may see their way clear to smoothing some of life's problems for other gentlemen. But in a highly democratic way: Their definition of gentlemen includes everyone - at least everyone with enough money to pay for the specific contract. Ths includes Zombies who want to settle the score with their murderers, and even the Auditors.
Their light and airy Guild house is adjacent to the Fools' Guild house (see Men at Arms). Their school is noted for giving one of the best educations you can have. Usually children of high-standing noble families attend the Assassins' school. The school's reputation even reaches into far-off countries. For example, 71-hour Ahmed from Klatch admitted that he had trained at, and been licensed by, the Guild (see Jingo), as was King Pteppicymon XXVIII of Djelibeybi.
However, there is always a place for a scholarship boy, partly out of a spirit of noblesse oblige, but mainly because "any commoner showing an uncommon aptitude for the profession had better bloody well be where we can see him." This is, after all, the way the upper classes have traditionally dealt with potentially troublesome but talented outsiders: by absorbing them into the privileged upper class, rather than risk having them outside leading a revolution. Scholarship pupils include Inigo Skimmer, Professor Cranberry, and possibly Zlorf Flannelfoot, who rose all the way to become Guild President.
The Guild is known to hold a number of inter-house competitions within the Guild School including the Wilkinson Cup.
Scholarship pupils are Assassins who are not fortunate enough to be backed by upscale families or to have an independent income, are as often as not employed by the Patrician as part of a select and shadowy body of employees known as Dark Clerks.
The Assassins have a high moral standard, in their own terms. They scrupulously stick to the rules of their Guild. Those rules include a prohibition of killing without a contract or fee. If you did, you would be a common murderer, not an Assassin (note the capitalization).
This rule has been broken by the student Assassin Jonathan Teatime (appears in Hogfather). He seemed to kill for the mere pleasure of it, a fact that made him a dangerous criminal, even by Assassins' standards. If it were not for the events of Hogfather, he may have had to be disposed of in a discreet manner by his fellows.
It is, however, worth noting the current Head Master has said 'No one became a great Assassin by always obeying the rules. Of course, no one ever became a great Assassin by disobeying the rules and getting caught, either.'
Assassins should wear black, a rule that has been challenged by Havelock Vetinari, while he was at the Assassins' school himself. He outdid all the others by wearing various shades of grey and green to blend better into the shadows. However, Vetinari is said to have actually failed his first attempt at the exam in Stealth and Concealment, simply because the adjudicating senior Assassin thought he hadn't bothered to turn up. Vetinari re-sat the exam, taking care to strive for something less than 100% effectiveness, and passed with a high mark. Others who wore black only were not as effective. See the Hon. John Bleedwell.
Another, not widely advertised, rule says that the inhumed-to-be should be told who had sent the Assassin, and who the Assassin was. This rule was obeyed by the young Lord Vetinari, who inhumed Lord Winder.
Only two people have been taken off their scale of fees so far. No assassination contract will be accepted either for Lord Vetinari, nor for Commander Samuel Vimes. The reasons are that even the Assassins think that Vetinari alive is much less a threat than a dead Vetinari, as you can never be sure whether he will stay dead. As for Sam Vimes, multiple assassinations have been planned, attempted and failed. He seems to be too ingenious in outwitting and ruining every attempt, and the assassins have finally given up on him, at least for the time being. A third, ostensibly active, contract is more of an embarrassment: it is known that the Guild has an open contract on Corporal "Nobby" Nobbs of the City Watch. This has not been retracted, but is for such a derisorily small amount of money (fivepence) that no self-respecting Guild member would ever accept it. It is perhaps there as a joke of some kind, and in any case Commander Vimes would get very intense if ever the Assasins went after one of his men.
The Guild has an impressive library, known as the Dark library, where their section on famous assassinations, weaponry and the methodology of inhumation is rumoured to be greater than even that of the Library at Unseen University. The Guild also takes great pride in their history of inhumations. They maintain a long gallery of famous people the Guild has inhumed, with small silver nameplates modestly telling which assassin had the privilege of inhuming them. It is considered the highest honor for an assassin to have that small, silver nameplate discreetly placed near their famous inhumations. There is also a museum showing various artefacts that have helped certain people to an earlier grave than they had anticipated. The fabled gonne was kept here until it was stolen by Edward d'Eath.
Lord Downey and Lord Vetinari were old enemies during their school years (see Night Watch).
Most of the gentlemen, and at least one woman, from the noble family Selachii are trained and licensed Assassins.
Sam Vimes hates them with a passion. Ironically, he (thanks to his marriage to Sybil) holds the deed to the land on which the Assassins' Guild rests.
Masters of the Guild of Assassins
- Sir Gyles de Munforte (Founder)
- Dr Gulliaume de Chacal (First Head Master)
- Dr. Follett (in Night Watch)
- Zlorf Flannelfoot (in The Colour of Magic)
- Dr. Cruces (until the events of Men at Arms)
- Lord Downey (in various books since Men at Arms)
Members of the Guild of Assassins
Important Assassins who have been mentioned in the Discworld books include:
- Lord Havelock Vetinari Holding the Title 'Provost of Assassins' and the following degrees: DMAP, DM, DGS, MA, MPE, MASc, MIDD, BScI & DiPE (appears in various books)
- Pteppicymon XXVIII (in Pyramids)
- 71-hour Ahmed (in Jingo)
- Jonathan Teatime (in Hogfather)
- Inigo Skimmer (in The Fifth Elephant)
- "Professor" Cranberry (not a genuinely conferred title - in Making Money)
- Mr Winvoe, Guild Treasurer, encountered in Hogfather
- Lord Robert Selachii, thwarted in Soul Music
- Señor Miguel Portijo, Selachii's co-thwartee and assistant
Other Assassins mentioned in the books, as cameos or non-speaking characters:-
- Grinjo (in The Colour of Magic)
- Eustace Bassingly-Gore
- Sir Richard Liddleley
- Sir Bernard Selachii
- Urmond (in The Colour of Magic)
- Vyrt (mentioned in Pyramids)
- Remora Selachii
- Arachne, surname unknown, a graduate with a passion for wildlife. Well, certain sorts, anyway.
Named student Assassins:
Former pupils who left without Taking Black:
Current College Tutors, as listed in Assassins' Guild Diary
- Lord Downey, MA (Master of Assassins, Head Tutor & Guild President)
- Mr Mericet, DMAP, MA, BScI (Under Master, teaches Strategy and Poison Theory)
- The Extremely Reverend Dr A-Pox-Upon-Their-Houses Jenkins, DGS (Religious Studies/Guild Chaplin)
- Mr Moody, BW (Personal Grooming)
- Baron Strifenkanen, DMAP (Applied Pathology)
- Kompt de Yoyo, DM, DL (Modern Languages and Music)
- Dr Von Ubersetzer, DL (Ancient Languages)
- M. de Balourd, MIDD (Dance and Deportment)
- Mme les Deux-Epees, MA, DiPE (Fencing and Edged Weapons)
- Mr Linbury-Court, MA (History)
- Mr Lamister
- Mr Bradlofrudd, DiPE (Llamedos) (Physical Education)
- Miss Band, DiPE (Climbing, Traps, Locks)
- Miss Smith-Rhodes (Domestic Science and Organic Poisons)
- Professor Stone, MASc (Alchemy and Metalwork)
- Lady T'Malia, MA, MPE, BScI (Political Expediency)
- Mr Graumunchen, MA (Geography)
- Mr Schotter, MS (Mathematics)
- Mr Nivor, MA, BScI (Traps & Advanced Ambush)
Guild Staff & Servants
The guild has a dedicated staff performing all the vital roles required by any large organisation. While not assassins themselves, they have had years of experience within the guild, and young students would be unwise to unset any of them.
- the Chief Armourer (currently vacant)
- Mr Carter, MGB - Chief Butler
- Mr Winvoe, MGAU - Bursar
- Mrs Collar - Bedder
- Guild Doctor (at the time of Pyramids).
- Sister Lister, SSSHS - Matron
- Mr Robey - Scullion
- Mr Bracegirdle - Porter
- Mr Maroon - Porter
- Mr Stippler - Porter
- Mr Bearhugger - Head Brewer
- Monsieur Insignes-Forvant, FGC - Chef
- Taster (currently vacant)
- Mr Wussie Staid - Janitor
- Washable Topsy - laundress
Within the Guild, the school is broken into Houses, each with a House Tutor. A list follows of these Houses and their Heads of House:
- Viper House (Mr Nivor)
- Scorpion House (Lady T'malia)
- Tump House (Miss Alice Band)
- Broken Moons House (Mr Moody)
- Raguineau's (Baron Strifenkanan)
- Pernypopax Dampier House (Professor Stone)
- Cobra House (Mr Mericet)
- Wigblock Prior (Kompt de Yoyo)
- B2 House [day pupils] (Dr von Ubersetzer)
- C1 House [day pupils] (Dr Perdore)
- Mykkim House (Mr Linbury-Court)
- Mrs Beddowe's House (M. le Balourd)
- Tree Frog House [day pupils] (Mr Bradlofrudd)
- Black Widow House [girls] (Mme les Deux-Epées)
- Welcome Soap House (Mr Graumunchen)
- Raven House (Miss Smith-Rhodes)
"The Assassins' Guild School was created by taking a classic British public school and turning all the knobs up past eleven, especiially the one marked 'violence'" (Terry Pratchett, quoted in The Art of Discworld)
Semi-formally the houses have acquired nicknames: Crabs, Croakers, Buzzers, Seen'emalls, Loonies, Sliders, Flat'eads, Soapies, Beddiboys, Raggies, Wiggies, Rats, Scarecrows, Tumpers and Poppies. As a more recent addition the Black Widow house has yet to have a nickname enshrined by tradition. Most names it has attracted were considered unprintable in the Assassin's Guild Diary however one suggestion was 'Darners' (on the basis 'they'll all end up as Seamstresses one day').
As with educational establishments all over the Multiverse, the initial uniform handed out to pupils of eleven, twelve and thirteen is issued out of a sadistic desire to impress on the wearer exactly how lowly an insect they are in God's garden, and to instill in the wearer, entirely of his or her own volition, a desire to succeed and get to the point where the hated rags may be discarded in favour of something with at least the potential to carry a bit more style.
Thus we have:-
Girls, eleven-thirteen: the Guild School stipulates white blouse, shapeless; a black gymslip or pinafore; black wooly stockings or tights (sixty to eighty denier) sensible flat shoes without adornment, and a round black hat known as the Blonker. The Guild Crest must be visibly apparent at the right breast or lapel.
Boys, eleven - thirteen:- must adopt the New Bod uniform of a midnight blue frock coat and knee britches, worn with cream waistcoat and ruffled shirt along with a black tricorn hat of beaver pelt. Scholarship and Charity boys will be distinguished at all times by wearing white duck trousers as well as the white scholars' gown.
Both sexes Take Black in the third year and are allowed to wear black clothing.
The Guild runs a rather specialised home insurance service: if someone breaks into a house insured by the Guild, an automatic contract is put out on their lives. Houses insured by the guild displays a Guild seal. It is not clear what issues of professional courtesy and demarcation this raises with the Thieves' Guild. It might be assumed that this is regarded as an inter-Guild courtesy, if the break-in were to be carried out by unlicenced Thieves; should the Guild take out a contract on a licenced Thieves' Guild member merely because that Thief is acting in accordance with their own Guild rights and privileges, however, such a contract might be on more shaky ground. Besides, the Thieves' Guild offer their own similar insurance policies to householders - does this breach demarcation?
As well as inhumations and insurance, the Guild is also known to offer bodyguarding and security consultancy services - ie, the exact opposite to inhumation. But the core business activity remains what it always was - evidenced by the Inhumation Bell ringing at least once every day.
More tenuously, it could be inferred from indirect evidence offered in Going Postal that the Guild may also offer what on the Roundworld might be described as a bomb-disposal service. Dr John Lawn states that Tolliver Groat's egregious trousers needed to be safely disposed of in a "controlled detonation". This begs the question of which agency in the City has the technical expertise to defuse, deactivate or otherwise safely dispose of explosive devices. It can't be the Alchemists, who are good at explosions but not so hot at making things go bang in a safe fashion. While it doesn't rule out Dwarfs or the Artificiers, the thought is there that in matters of exothermic alchemy, the Assassins must be among those who can boast cutting-edge technology. And who have the expertise and talent to capitalise on dealing with these things.
The following degrees are awarded by the Guild and associate guilds:
- MA Master Assassins
- MPE Master of Political Expediency
- BScI Bachelor of the Science of Inhumation
- DiHI Diploma of Homicidal Insanity
- DL Doctor of Languages
- MIDD Member of the Institute of Dance & Deportment
- DiPE Diploma in Physical Education
- MASc Master of Alchemical Science
- DMAP Doctor of Medicine & Applied Pathology
- BW Bachelor of Wig-making
- DM Doctor of Music
- MS Master of Sums
- DGS Doctor of God Studies
- SSSHS Spiteful Sisters of Seven-Handed Sek
- MGAU Member of the Guild of Accountants and Usurers
- MGB Member of the Guild of Butlers
- FGC Fellow of the Guild of Chefs
The Guild has the following open commissions, several of which have claimed the lives of aspiring assassins, others have not been taken up, or the 'client' cannot be located:
|The Hogfather||AM$3,000,000|| Has expired (original contract called for the inhumation to occur within 3 days) The contract was placed by the Auditors of Reality. They did not paid in coin as such, using instead blank gold discs. This challenging contract was given to Jonathan Teatime. His body was never found.
|Lord Vetinari||AM$1,000,000|| Officially unlisted. The Patrician has now been taken off the register in recognition that his death would be damaging to the interests of both the city and the Guild. In the days when he was a viable target Lord Vetinari accepted attempts on his life with good grace, understanding that it was a necessary part of the political process. However, he also held the view that the dog is only allowed one bite at the apple and the Assassins that attempted this commission were never seen again.
|Rincewind the Wizard||AM$950,000|| Though he is not a violent man, Rincewind is a born survivor. Assassins attempting this contract have suffered unfortunate mishaps; some were hit by falling tiles, struck by lightning, or waylaid and eaten by Rincewind's traveling accessory.
|The Duke of Ankh, Sir Samuel Vimes||AM$940,000 and rising|| Numerous commissions were placed upon the commander of the Watch, often by nobles such as the Rust and Selachii families. Eustace Bassingly-Gore, Sir Richard Liddeley and Wiggs Sr have all attempted to inhume the commander, only to find too late that he plays not by any rules, but to win. He also has a cunning and inventive mind when it comes to traps. This lesson is periodically reinforced by unpleasant but non-lethal things which seem to happen to student Assassins sent on reconnaissance missions. He is now officially unlisted, but Vimes has since has appealed to have this overturned.
|Reacher Gilt||A very large, undisclosed sum.|| This was placed by the bankers of Ankh following his actions bankrupting one of their number, and threatening the metaphorical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Those who guard said gold do not like those who get in the way of the sun.
|Moist von Lipwig||AM$100,000|| Only to be fulfilled if Moist failed in the duty of care for Mr Fusspot left to him by Mrs Lavish.
|The Duck Man||AM$132,000|| It is unknown who has placed this contract, and so far all assassins have been too curious about the strange nature of the target to accept.
|The Band With Rocks In (Imp y Celyn, Glod, & Lias/Cliff)||Sum never disclosed|| Mentioned in Soul Music. Contract was taken out by the Musicians' Guild but no price referred to. The Assassins' Guild decided to no longer entertain the contract, and refunded the fee.
|Nobby Nobbs||AM$4.31|| Believed to have been placed as a joke by some of members of the Watch. Commander Vimes has let it be know that he 'will be upset' if this commission is carried out...
|Foul Ole Ron||One groat|| No assassin would dream of killing someone for such a low sum. In any case Foul Ole Ron's Smell would prevent anyone getting closer than bow-shot range.
|Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler||Tuppence||Price given by one Assassin (Lord Robert Selachii) to another (his apprentice) whilst pursuing Dibbler's associates, the Band With Rocks In, in Soul Music. The response given was "It's certainly tempting..."|
The highest commission earned at the time of Hogfather had been AM$750,000 - which had been a special familiy rate, including overnight guests.
A 'brief' history of the profession and Guild
The profession of assassination is thought to have originated in the mountainous regions of Klatch with the Hashishim, led originally by Creosote, Seriph of Al Khali. Their name is derived from the large quantities of hashish they consumed which inclined them to wear beads and flared trousers (those with the later were the most deadly), apparently enjoy monotonous music and dancing to the interesting patterns of light on their knife blades. While inclined to giggle and in extreme cases fall over, they were renowned as deadly, mad killers and feared throughout Hubward Klatch. It may be their source of hasheesh dried up, as these assassins disappeared into history and eventually emerged in the more familiar form.
The school was founded by Sir Gyles and Lady de Murforte in 1511. Sir Gyles became inspired while crusading in Klatch after (socially) meeting members of the brotherhood of assassins operating there and influencing the rather complex internal politics of the contemporary Komplezianne Empire. In preparation for the completion of construction of the current Guild building, Klatchian tutors were brought in to provide relevant tuition for Ankh-Morpork's 'brighter academics and psychopaths' to prepare the faculty.
King Cirone II officially opened the school (then named the de Murforte School for Gentlemen Assassins) on the August 27th 1512. At that time 8 tutors were employed and the Head Master was a Doctor Guillaume de Chacal from the Academie Quirmienne, known as a strict disciplinarian and moral leader, though not an assassin.
The first influx of 72 students (known as King's Scholars in recognition of the king's financial support and bestowal of a Royal Charter upon the school) included Prince Cirone. Within a few years it became known as the Royal de Murforte School for Gentlemen Assassins and gained a reputation for a high standard of education. Pressure from wealthy inhabitants of Ankh-Morpork led to the admittance of 24 'Oppidans' - children of citizens. Nowadays the number of Oppidans accepted has increased to 180 and the Guild also accepts scholarship students (whose number decreases over the course of the term). Initially students were housed in dormitories within the guild or nearby houses, leading to the current houses C1 and B2 based on the architect's plans and Mrs Beddowe's House. As numbers increased more students were boarded off-site in the houses of 'dames'.
In 1572 the school was granted Guild status, becoming the Royal Guild of Assassins and gaining voting rights in the Guild Council. Following 1688 it became known simply as the Guild of Assassins due to recent events.
In 1767, the freehold of the Guild premises passed into the hands of Sir John 'Mad Jack' Ramkin following a card game with the head of the Guild. It has remained the property of the Ramkin family until recently when in 1986 UC it was included in the properties deeded to Commander Vimes upon his marriage to Lady Sybil Ramkin.
As the Century of the Anchovy commences, female students have started being admitted to the guild. Girls have previously studied at the Guild, however had to rely on a short haircut and forged note from their parents excusing them from doing sports (see Mme les Deux-Epées). This has led to the formation of the Black Widow house. Another recent development is the admittance of a Troll, Jasper 'James' Chrysoprase.
There is a continuity error here, or perhaps information is yet to be released, concerning the all-female Houses at the Assassins' Guild school.
The Discworld's Assassins' Guild Yearbook and Diary 2000 and the ''The New Discworld Companion'' agree on the Houses of study, and on their housemasters/mistresses, as given above. These can be taken to be a consensus reality. However, in his notes to Kidby's artwork in The Art of Discworld, Terry is very specific that there is also a Mantis House, newly established for female pupils, which has Alice Band as its resident Housemistress.
Naming a house after a female insect which kills and eats its mate would make sense in this context, especially as a replacement for the rather prosaic Tump House (apparently named after a district of the city, which was rather disappointing). But "Mantis House" is named only once, whereas Tump House gets several referents. There are, as yet, few women on the Guild faculty, so possibly Miss Band's assignment as housemistress was changed when Mantis House opened, and another faculty member now oversees Tump House.