A Dark Clerk is one of a small, select and discreet group of Palace employees. Nobody knows what exactly they do but everyone can make an educated guess. They stand apart from the general secretariat of civil servants under the direction of Rufus Drumknott, such as the former government inspector A.E. Pessimal, in that they don't just manage the ever-growing burden of paperwork which is the price of establishing a modern State. Indeed, these are suspected to be the sort of civil servants who take over where the paperwork runs out and no written record is kept, nor is it desirable to keep, of an executive-level decision.
Not all the Dark Clerks are recruited from graduates of the Assassins' Guild school. Although these are the sort of civil servants who can be relied upon to discreetly execute a directive from above. Indeed, one example, Clerk Harold, who we meet in Going Postal, is actually a gargoyle and a very good listener. Especially when listening to a conversation in the waiting-room adjacent to Vetinari's office. The golem, Mr Pump, was another kind of Dark Clerk, used by Vetinari as a "probation officer". He was re-programmed with a very interestingly-written chem to suit his new duties.
It is thought, or commonly believed, that Dark Clerks are recruited into salaried positions at the Palace from Assassins' School graduates. As the usual well-heeled Guild graduate would pride the fact that he is nobody's employee and indeed is independently wealthy enough to scorn working for another save as a self-employed consultant, those Guild graduates who are not so fortunate, the Scholarship, Bursary and Charity pupils, those who need the money, are the most likely candidates to work for the State. Indeed, regard Inigo Skimmer, a typical Dark Clerk.
In Going Postal Lord Vetinari wished to re-open the Ankh-Morpork Post Office, but the last three men he had appointed as Post Master had all died within weeks of each other in strange circumstances. Suspecting something was amiss, the next person he appointed was one of his own dark clerks Mr Whobblebury. This proved unsuccessful, and he was forced to try a more radical approach to find a Post Master.
And in Snuff, we learn Dark Clerks are routinely attached to Ankh-Morporkian embassies and legations overseas, where no doubt they perform tasks fully consistent with the accepted interpretation of the duties of a diplomat. Or some diplomats, anyway. The clerk Arachne, on attachment to the embassy in Fourecks, has been prevailed upon, at the end of Snuff, to perform a deniable service for Vetinari.
So the duties of a Dark Clerk might be defined as
- Information gathering and analysis;
- Occasional execution of strictly verbal directives from Higher Authority;
- Other sundry tasks such as legally constituted and accepted Higher Authority might devise.
Known Dark Clerks
- Arachne - Stationed at the Ankh-Morpork Embassy in Bugarup
- Condo - secret member of The Dark Sect
- Godfrey - assigned as bodyguard to the Low Monarch in Raising Steam, p. 272
- Mavis - mentioned as having verified the quality of the safe house in Sto Lat, in Raising Steam, p. 273
- Columbine & Silkworm - mentioned as guarding the safe house in Sto Lat (Raising Steam, p. 274)
- Inigo Skimmer - sent to Überwald to assist and protect the Duke of Ankh
- Ishmael - referenced in Raising Steam as the Dark Clerk assigned to monitor Charlie, lest he take it into his head to do anything creative or innovative.
- Mr Smith: assigned to work with Rufus Drumknott to help administrate really tricky legal issues to do with the railway, in Raising Steam
- Whobblebury - appointed Post Master to investigate the curse on the Post Office