Ankh-Morpork Assassins' Guild

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The Ankh-Morpork Assassins' Guild is a professional organisation and school for assassins in Terry Pratchett's long-running Discworld series of fantasy novels. It is located in Ankh-Morpork, the largest city on the Discworld, and is widely considered by the elite to be the best option for a well-rounded education anywhere.

The Guild of Assassins is located in a light, airy series of buildings next to the Guild of Fools and Joculators, which, being a far more sinister building, is often mistaken for the Assassins'. The guild is currently headed by Lord Downey.

History[edit]

The Assassins' Guild was founded on 27 August AM1512 by Sir Gyles de Munforte as the de Munforte School for Gentlemen Assassins. Sir Gyles was a warrior knight who, during his crusades in Klatch, was intrigued by the Klatchian tradition of professional gentleman assassins, and decided to set up a similar organisation at home, only without the drugs. In AM1576 the school was elevated to the status of a Guild and the name was changed to the Royal Guild of Assassins. The 'Royal' was dropped after the 'events' of AM1688 (i.e. the Ankh-Morpork Civil War, as a result of which the monarchy was overthrown).

In response to huge demand among the aristocracy for their children to receive the well-rounded education the Guild offered, the Guild's charter was expanded to include those intending to gain skills in proper Assassination.

For most of its history the Assassins Guild School was a male-only establishment (although talented, self-taught women might become members of the Guild itself), however it has recently become co-educational.

It is said to be the only school of assassination on the Discworld. However, assassination began in Klatch, and it is stated in Interesting Times that there is a small, very select guild in Hunghung, in the Agatean Empire.

Notable locations[edit]

The Bell Tower houses the Inhumation Bell, which marks not only the hours (though fashionably late) but also the successful completion of an assassin's contract. It also tones to mark the passing of assassins (these can be the same thing). The Bell Tower is topped by Wiggy Charlie, a weathervane in the shape of a cloaked man.

The Cloister houses the busts and portraits of famous victims of the guild's various graduates, along with the date of death and the name of the Assassin with whose "assistance" they threw off their respective mortal coils.

The Museum contains many noted tools and traps, such as rigged teddy bears, used in successful killings.

The Library is the largest in Ankh-Morpork outside that of Unseen University, though it probably surpasses the latter in "certain specialist areas"[citation needed].

Structure and activities[edit]

Pratchett describes the Assassins' Guild in The Art of Discworld as a typical British public school with the knobs turned up to eleven. Like a British public school, it is divided into houses, often named for a deadly animal. The most oft-mentioned is Viper House, though Scorpion, Tree Frog, Raven and Cobra Houses have also been mentioned. Initially a purely male institution, it has recognised female students as being at least equal to their brothers in the matter of inventive killing, and has opened Black Widow and Mantis Houses for girls.

The Assassins' Guild is known for providing the best education in Ankh-Morpork. Most of the nobility in the city (and beyond) send their children there. Very few actually become assassins; many who attend do not learn valuable weapon skills, but are mainly there for the arts courses. These students are known as Oppidans, from the Latatian for "town" (see Town and gown). Guild graduates can be expected to be at home in any company, and to be able to play at least one musical instrument. However, those who do not graduate are generally never seen again; as noted in Wyrd Sisters, the Guild is fond of competitive examination, and Pyramids mentions that the Guild is "easy to get into and easy to get out of; the trick was to get out upright." It is implied, though not confirmed, that Oppidans are not included in this.

When an assassin reaches the end of his final year, he must undertake a "final exam" known as 'The Run', which consists of an oral test, a run through an obstacle course at night in Ankh-Morpork and the targeted killing of a single individual. As described in Pyramids, it is designed to test all aspects of the trade, including covert maneuvering, climbing, trap evasion, contingency planning, and (at the end) the ability to actually line up your target and finish the job—all under pressures akin to a real contract (failure is always fatal, and students have bounties on them during 'The Run'). To prepare for 'The Run', the Guild encourages particularly competitive forms of recreation; in particular the "Wall Game" (far more sadistic than the real-world Eton wall game, it is essentially an extreme hybrid of rock-climbing and dodgeball), and Stealth Chess. Furthermore, a school sport is edificing—the climbing of buildings, often done on unusual/notable buildings in the city itself, with each major building having a rating out of 10 representing how difficult it is to climb (as noted in Pyramids). School houses have their own teams, and the teams compete against one another.

Coat of arms[edit]

A shield, bisected by a bend sinister et purpure. Dexter a poignard d'or, draped with a masque en sable, lined gris on a field gules. Sinister two croix d'or on a sable field.

Motto: Nil Mortifi Sine Lucre (No killing without payment).

Code of conduct[edit]

The Assassins' Guild has a strict code of conduct. It is considered absolutely unforgivable for an Assassin to kill (or as they refer to it, "inhume") for any reason other than being paid to do so. Of course, to distinguish themselves from common hitmen, the assassins' code also demands that they be paid a very large amount to do so. Typical Guild contracts have the Guild taking half of the payment, with the Assassin keeping the remainder. The code also demands Assassins never reveal the source of the contract. After an inhumation they must by law always leave a receipt. They must also give the client (they view the victim as the client) a sporting chance, and thus are forbidden from accepting contracts on those who are unable to defend themselves (though for their purposes, anyone wealthy enough to afford bodyguards is considered able to defend themselves, whether they have actually hired any or not). With this in mind the Guild strongly disapproves of firearms (which are, in any case, extremely uncommon on the Disc), and also of most (but not all) other mechanical (beyond bows and crossbows) or chemical weapons (beyond poisons applied to implements or comestibles). Also, it is apparent that the Guild will only accept one contract per client (who would be relieved to know that only one Assassin is planning to kill them), as mentioned in Making Money. They also frown on performing jobs on the street (again to distance themselves from common hitmen) and prefer to service a client in his/her home or place of business (as mentioned in Feet of Clay).

It is accepted that an Assassin may find it necessary to inhume bodyguards, including other Assassins, while on a commission. However, if these can be incapacitated without being killed, it is considered good manners to do so.

In very rare cases, usually of personal offence, the head of the Assassins' Guild may stretch some of those rules, if only to make a statement. This was described by Dr Cruces as "Inhumation with extreme impoliteness", and by Lady T'malia in Pyramids as "Termination with extreme prejudice". This procedure requires not only that the victim be inhumed in an extremely thorough way, but that the victim's associates and employees be also intimately involved, along with the business premises, the building, and a large part of the surrounding neighbourhood, so that everyone involved knows that the man has been unwise enough to make the kind of enemies who can get very angry and indiscriminate.

It is also the case that the rules may be relaxed if the Assassin is "outside civilisation" (the Überwald area is considered outside civilisation, as are the more remote areas of Klatch. The Assassins have not, as yet, been known to operate in the Counterweight Continent or FourEcks).

An Assassin must always act with style. Without style, he's just an expensive thug. They must always dress stylishly in black (which, although not the best colour for being unseen at night, is the correct colour for being an Assassin) and must always seem vaguely bored and, if possible, slightly foreign.

The rules of Assassination are so utterly formalised and strict that anyone with a strategic mind, a decent budget, and a firm knowledge of their code can usually avoid death at their hands, as Commander of the City Watch Sam Vimes has proved many times. The Commander has been so difficult to inhume that as of the events of The Fifth Elephant, the last time the Guild was approached, no one stepped forward to accept the contract, despite the six-hundred-thousand dollar fee (p. 131), and by Night Watch he was off the register entirely, preventing any one from taking out a contract on him, an order so powerful that only Lord Vetinari has ever been "struck off" before (though this was largely for political reasons - namely that Vetinari was infinitely preferable to both most of the other Patricians in recent history and any likely alternatives). Vimes has petitioned for the decision to be overturned.

Assassins featured in the books[edit]

Havelock Vetinari[edit]

Main article: Havelock Vetinari

Lord Vetinari appears as a student assassin in Night Watch but is apparently no longer practising. Also, no-one remembers what weapon he learned. He is the current Patrician of Ankh-Morpork and the Diary lists him as 'Provost of Assassins', presumably an honorary position.

Dr Cruces[edit]

Head of the Assassins' Guild in Men at Arms. He is elitist and looks down on the Watch as members of a lower social stratum. However, he is usually honourable by his own standards, until d'Eath comes to him with a wild story about the Heir to the Throne, a bag full of evidence, and the stolen "gonne". Upon picking up the weapon, he becomes drunk with power, enjoying the god-like feeling of having the power of life and death over whoever he sees. He takes over Edward's plan, trying to kill several Guild leaders, and attempts to assassinate the Patrician at Vimes's wedding. He is hunted down and relieved of his gonne by Vimes. He reveals the truth of Carrot's ancestry, and Carrot executes him for treason. His death is an example of Vimes's theory about how anyone who has a weapon being held on them better hope the person holding it is evil, because evil men like Cruces will enjoy the power they have over the victim and wait, while good men such as Carrot will strike quickly without any meaningless delays.

Lord Downey[edit]

Lord Downey, drawn by Paul Kidby.

The current head of the Assassins' Guild. He succeeded Dr Cruces after his death; before that he was his deputy. He is a kindly looking, distinguished old gentleman with white hair, eminently professional and seemingly unflappable. Certain evidence suggests, however, that he was not always quite as refined or in-control as he is now. He was at school with Havelock Vetinari, where he was a bully and something of an imbecile, with a propensity for calling everyone 'scags', including Vetinari, whom he also referred to as dog-botherer. Thirty years' passage seems to have improved him. Also, the fact that he managed to get on Vetinari's bad side may have something to do with it.

Allegedly, Lord Downey's preferred method of inhumation is poisoning, though no deaths have yet been attributed to him. Pratchett suggests this is probably due to the fact that he is very good at his job. His special recipe for humbugs, submitted to Nanny Ogg, calls for "arsenic to taste", though, since arsenic is actually very traceable, this is likely a slight bit of misinformation on his part. One current tradition he maintains is inviting certain students to his office for sherry and an almond slice. Given the nature of most Assassins' Guild traditions, this could be seen as a kind of impromptu "pass or fail" examination (see bitter almonds for the reason why).

Lord Downey first appears in Men at Arms, makes his first appearance as Guildmaster in Feet of Clay, and appears again in Hogfather. He also appears in Night Watch as a student bully. His first name is unknown, but he is mentioned by the initials D.Downey in the Assassin's Guild Yearbook, when discussing edificeering. In the Sky One adaptation of Hogfather Downey was played by David Warner.

71-Hour Ahmed[edit]

A Klatchian warrior who accompanies the Klatchian envoy Prince Khufurah on a diplomatic journey to Ankh-Morpork in the novel Jingo. He speaks with a heavy accent and has a penchant for chewing on cloves. Following an attempt on the prince's life by an unknown assassin, he is suspected of killing the Watch's prime suspect, provoking Vimes and other Watch members to pursue him back to Klatch (Particularly after he captures Angua in werewolf form).

Apart from belonging to a vicious but honorable warrior clan known as the D'regs, he is later revealed to be the wali of Klatch, a Klatchian equivalent of a watchman on a par with Vimes. It also turns out his obsessive clove-chewing and broken Morporkian are in fact a disguise meant to delude foreigners into falsely assuming he is nothing but an uncivilized barbarian. Like many privileged foreigners, he was sent to the Assassins' Guild as a child on the assumption that he would get an excellent education. He confounds Vimes by his fond memories of Ankh-Morpork, and even Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler. He and Vimes eventually develop a wary respect for each other, mostly based on both of them being basically honest cops in unenviable positions.

He got his nickname after killing a man (guilty of poisoning a well, and killing a number of villagers and very valuable camels) one hour before the traditional D'reg three days of hospitality, during which even your greatest enemy should be shown respect, would have run out. He did so for reasons that would not be beyond Vimes' own way of thinking; he was getting the jump on a man who would not hesitate to attack him the instant custom allowed him.

Edward d'Eath[edit]

One of the major villains in Men at Arms, he is an impoverished aristocrat whose ancestors lost all their money through drinking, gambling, and, in the words of Gaspode "chasing anything in a dress... his dress."[citation needed] A hopeless romantic, he dreams of restoring the Ankh-Morpork monarchy; when he discovers that Carrot Ironfoundersson is a descendant of the Ankh-Morpork royal line, he conspires to give him the throne. When he obtains Leonard of Quirm's "gonne" (the Discworld's first gunpowder-fired weapon), he becomes progressively more insane, accidentally killing a clown. After an "accident" in which a dwarf artifacer is killed by the jealous gonne, which fears he will make more, a frightened d'Eath takes his evidence to Dr. Cruces, who listens quite kindly until he touches the gonne and kills young Edward.

Mr Teatime[edit]

Mr Jonathan Teatime appears in Hogfather. He insists that his last name be pronounced "Te-ah-tim-eh."

He was taken into the Guild as a child because the administration took pity on him after he lost his parents at a young age. It is never specified what happened to young Jonathan's parents; it is, however, implied that what happened to them was Jonathan.

He is boyishly handsome, with curly hair and a ready smile, but these features are ruined by his eyes. One is grey glass (black in the film adaptation) and the other is off-white, with a tiny, pinhole-sized pupil. He is, undoubtedly, a genius, but also sociopathic to an astonishing degree. His mind has been compared at times to both a corkscrew and a shattered mirror (i.e. something brilliant, sharp, and dazzling, but also fundamentally and irrevocably twisted/broken). His main problem seems to be that he 'sees things differently from other people, in that he sees other people as things'. This gets him into a spot of trouble early on, as his assassinations often include the brutal murders of not just the target, but also their family, their servants, and very often their pets, all of which are direct violations of Guild protocol. Senior assassins regarded him as a young man to watch, preferably from a distance.

However, when the Auditors of Reality need someone to assassinate the The Hogfather (the Discworld equivalent to Father Christmas or Santa Claus), Mr Teatime is just the man for the job. When questioned, he reveals to his superior, Lord Downey, that he often used to lie awake in bed at night and think of ways to kill not only the Hogfather, but also the Tooth Fairy and the Soul Cake Tuesday Duck (Discworld's version of the Easter Bunny), among others (including Death). He commissions the help of a cadre of lowlifes, ranging from big Banjo Lilywhite to the locksmith Mr Brown, and sets about putting his ingenious plan into action, which inevitably pits him against Susan Sto Helit and her grandfather, Death.

Most of the time, Mr Teatime seems a pleasant, albeit odd young man. He only seems to get irritated when people mispronounce his name. However, he possesses physical abilities which defy physics, and has been known to perform feats such as stabbing through all layers of clothing but stopping before hitting flesh, doing the same thing but with eyelids instead of clothing and eyes instead of flesh, flipping on thin air, and killing so fast he appears to be a blur, all of which he will do without any notice or provocation. Rumours among his associates (somewhat confirmed in the GURPS Discworld RPG sourcebook co-written by Pratchett) imply that the glass eye is in fact a scrying crystal, which might go some way towards explaining his abilities but also means that he implanted notoriously erratic Discworld magic into his own eye-socket.

He is always cheerful, sometimes in positions when he shouldn't have been. He has a certain, and in some places 'scary' way of speaking; The content didn't match the tone.

The Assassins' Guild lists him as having vanished without trace since the events in Hogfather, though they have named a "Teatime Prize" in his honour, which is given annually to the student who devises the most creative, but technically accurate, hypothetical inhumation, preferably complete with maps and a proposed route that avoids or disables any guards.

In the Sky One adaptation of Hogfather, Mr Teatime is played by Marc Warren. Warren plays Teatime with an American, and more specifically, a New England accent, partly based on Johnny Depp's version of Willy Wonka (another unpredictable and "childlike" character).

Other noted assassins[edit]

  • Lady T'Malia: Teaches Political Expediency in Pyramids. A very beautiful woman (though it is the kind of beauty only achieved by a team of skilled artists, manicurists, plasterers, corsetiers and dressmakers and three hours' solid work every morning), who wears enough hollow jewellery to poison small towns.
  • Miss Alice Band: First mentioned in the Assassins' Guild diary, where she is listed as teaching Traps, Locks and Climbing, and is also a "stealth archeologist" (the Paul Kidby illustration resembles Lara Croft). In Night Watch she sent Jocasta Wiggs on a very humbling training mission to target (catch sight of, NOT attack) Sam Vimes after deciding Wiggs was overconfident. (The name is a spoof on a type of headband.
  • Zlorf Flannelfoot: Head of the Guild in The Colour of Magic.
  • Dr Follett: Former head of the Guild. Appears in Night Watch. A keen political mind, under a very odd hairstyle, and part of the conspiracy against the then Patrician Lord Winder. Based on Ken Follett.
  • Mericet: Appears in Pyramids as teacher for Strategy and Poison Theory, and Teppic's proctor for the final exam. He is said to have killed a former Patrician of Ankh-Morpork and to be the toughest proctor of Guild final exams.
  • Lord Robert Selachii: Appears in Soul Music.
  • Prince Pteppicymon (Teppic): Appears in Pyramids.
  • Jocasta Wiggs: Appears (although in circumstances which probably made her wish she hadn't) in Night Watch; one of the Guild's few female pupils. She is also the one who makes Samuel Vimes aware of the fact that the Guild is no longer accepting contracts on his life.
  • Inigo Skimmer: Appears in The Fifth Elephant. Scholarship boy, one of the few Assassins who is not a Gentleman, but merely a very good craftsman, that is to say, a killer who feels no emotion in the execution of his duty save "craftsman's pride in a job well done". Used weaponry normally forbidden under Guild law, but only when outside the city boundaries. He was killed in the book by a werewolf, presumed to be Angua's brother, or at least one of his lackeys.
  • Miguel Portijo: Lord Robert Selachii's apprentice in the animated version of Soul Music (unnamed in the book), As the name suggests, he is drawn to resemble the UK politician Michael Portillo.
  • Remora Selachii: Presumably a relative of Lord Robert. Appears in the Discworld Noir game.
  • Mr Nivor: Teaches Traps in Pyramids.
  • Kompt de Yoyo: Teaches Modern languages and Music in Pyramids.
  • Honorable Eustace Bassingly-Gore: Mentioned in The Fifth Elephant. Tried to inhume Sam Vimes by means of poisoned shaving cream. Was sent by Vimes on a ship to Ghat via Cape Terror.
  • Sir Richard Liddeleley: Mentioned in The Fifth Elephant. Was found "tied to a fountain in Sator Square, painted pink and with a flag stuck—" after making an attempt to inhume Sam Vimes. Vimes did this on account of "feeling generous".

Noted Inhumations[edit]

Inhumer Client Method
Lady Prill Moon King of Brindisi Poisoned Horsehair Sofa
Guillaume Dire[1] Olerve The Bastard (King of Sto Lat)[2] Crossbow
Hon. Stanley Crabshaw Quirm Road bandits Teaspoon
Sir Guy de Taupinier King Guillaume le Rouge Dead Mole
Dr de Colleuse Emperor of Brindisi Roll of Wallpaper
Grand Vizier of El Salu Emir of El Kaound Frozen Mackrel
Lord Robert Selachii, Mr Sendivoge and others Patricio, Despot of Quirm[3] unspecified
Mr W.W. Robertson Duke of Sto Kerrig Drowned in a Butt of Best Brandy
Mr Trefor Frame Mr Edwin Cardly Exploding Privy
H.K. Smarter Kang, Lord of Agatea Jigsaw Puzzle
J.C.R. Wiggs, P.M.T. Wiggs,
S.T.D. Wiggs, B.S.E. Wiggs, Jocasta Wiggs (latest)
Count Dragoul von Salic of Uberwald (vampire) unspecified
unspecified Nersh the Lunatic[4] unspecified
unspecified Giggling Lord Smince[4] unspecified
Havelock Vetinari Homicidal Lord Winder Fear

Open commissions[edit]

Name Amount Notes
The Hogfather AM$3,000,000[5] Has expired (original contract called for the inhumation to occur within 3 days)[5] Not paid in money as such (blank gold discs)
Lord Vetinari AM$1,000,000[6] Officially unlisted[7]
Rincewind AM$950,000[1]  
Samuel Vimes AM$940,000 and rising[1] Officially unlisted[7]
Moist von Lipwig AM$100,000[8] Only to be fulfilled if Moist failed in the duty left to him by Mrs Lavish[8]
Duck Man AM$132,000[1]  
Nobby Nobbs AM$4.31[1] Believed to be a joke by some of the Watch[1]
Foul Ole Ron One groat[1]  
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 (see below). The response given was "It's certainly tempting--"
Band With Rocks In

(Imp y Celyn, Glod, & Lias/Cliff)

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.
"Officially unlisted" means that, while the Guild has priced these people as "clients", it now refuses to accept contracts on them, on the grounds that their deaths would destabilise the city, endangering the Guild itself, which is obviously against the interests of the Guild. In the case of Vimes this is the official excuse with the truth being that the guild is fed up with its members returning from attempts beaten up, sent to foreign lands, burnt by dragons or just dead.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Pratchett, Terry; Briggs, Stephen; Kidby, Paul (1999-01-01). Discworld Assassins and Guild Yearbook and Diary 2000. London: Victor Gollancz, LTD. ISBN 0-575-06687-3. 
  2. ^ Pratchett, Terry (1987). Mort. p. 51. ISBN 0-575-04171-4. 
  3. ^ Pratchett, Terry (1989). Pyramids. p. 252. ISBN 0-575-04463-2. 
  4. ^ a b Pratchett, Terry (1989). Guards! Guards!. p. 232. ISBN 0-575-04606-6. 
  5. ^ a b Pratchett, Terry (1996). Hogfather. pp. 23, 26. ISBN 0-552-14542-4. 
  6. ^ Pratchett, Terry (1993). Men at Arms. p. 19. ISBN 0-552-14028-7. 
  7. ^ a b Pratchett, Terry (2002). Night Watch. pp. 8–9. ISBN 0-385-60264-2. 
    Vimes was still listed during the events of The Fifth Elephant but it was revealed that no one would take the job when it was offered shortly before the events of this book.
  8. ^ a b Pratchett, Terry (2007). Making Money. p. 83. ISBN 0-385-61101-3. 

See also[edit]