Fan Fiction : Discworld : Little Cameos Of Life On The Discworld: 1 - Choosing A School

Little Cameos Of Life On The Discworld: 1 - Choosing A School

Paul Catlow PLC1723 at yahoo.co.uk


Choosing A School

Professor Handhold prided himself on being a firm but fair man who got along with young boys and understood how their minds worked. After all, he'd been ten himself, once: it was simply a matter of casting his mind back, and remembering. He looked across to the Deputy Headmaster, Doctor Garrotte [1] , and received the briefest of nods in return. He frowned, slightly; he couldn't visualize François Garrotte as ever having been ten. But he'd needed a deputy headmaster, and when the Assassins' School in Ankh-Morpork had expressed its willingness to part with an experienced teacher with administrative experience, he'd leapt at the chance and the social cachet involved. Little shreds of uncertainly were forming in his mind at that decision: Garrote, to the Professor's discomfort, moved through life with the assured self-confidence of one who knows he is the most intelligent person in the room and who sees no particular reason to hide it. He also worried whether hiring an ambitious deputy head from the Assassins' School had been, in retrospect, a particularly sensible thing for a Headmaster to do.

Dismissing his vague worry, he looked back at the family group in the office with him, who were expressing the usual mixture of emotions and impressions suitable to the occasion. The headmaster's office at Hugglestones was designed to impress, or rather to leave the visitor going away with the correct set of impressions. The severe oak panelling, the wall lined with glass-fronted bookshelves, the framed academic credentials neatly hanging from the wall behind him, but above all, the rack demonstrating a fearsome array of canes and tawses [2] at the side of his desk, all spoke of a certain kind of education which was only available at a consideration, let us say three thousand Ankh-Morpork dollars per pupil per academic year. Again, he tried to focus on the General, wondering why it was so difficult to get a precise fix on the man.

"I'm convinced the boys will add value to this school." he said, with complete sincerity, in the practiced terms of one professional to another of equal status. Damn it, he ran a school. That should make him the professional equivalent of a general, surely? "And twins, too. Rare, but we've dealt with it before, and you may be sure any competent master worth his salt will know the tricks!"

"Like, dressin' up in each other's clothes and each pretendin' to be the other, you mean?" the General said, with a braying laugh. "We've had that at home, haven't we, Brunhilde?"

"That sort of nonsense is soon sorted out!" Lady de Guerre asserted, firmly. "Even if it means painting a "P" on one forehead and a "T" on the other."

The Professor regarded Her Ladyship. He knew it wasn't unusual for a General's wife to wear clothing that affected military styles, but he wondered about the gleaming breastplate. And the helmet. With the horns on. And what he was sure was an ornamental broadsword. It seemed… somehow archaic, really. But even if the boys turned out to be as thick as a troll sandwich, the social cachet of having the children of senior military rank on the roll was going to be good for business, like bagging a Prince.

Again he tried to focus on General de Guerre. It was curious; he was aware of a bluff, well-built officer, red-haired and with a majestic red moustache, in a dress uniform dripping with gilt and medals, with a sword balanced by a broad sash across his chest, his dress helmet held under his left arm. But why wasn't he sure of something as basic as what colour his uniform was? He dismissed the silly thought: red, of course. Only fitting.

He looked at the boys: cheerful, well-scrubbed, cleanly, apple-cheeked, easy to please. Bright, too: they'd submitted competent essays on the history of the Sto Plains states, with particular reference to the way wars and battles had decided the destinies of many a local ruling family.

"Well" he said, trying to radiate benevolence, "Panique de Guerre, and Effroi de Guerre, I'm pleased to say that myself and my colleague Dr Garrotte have considered your academic needs, and I'm very pleased to say that in my opinion there is a place for you both at Hugglestones. This just leaves the little matter of… er…"

He looked at the General, who stretched out a languid blue-uniformed arm to his wife. The white silk sash on the blue uniform jacket caught the pale winter sunlight for an instant, and gleamed.

"M'dear?"

Lady de Guerre reached into her handbag, and brought out an ornate scroll. "A bankers' draft for six thousand dollars" she said, offering it to Professor Handhold. "Drawn on the Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork".

"That will do nicely" the Professor said, with feeling. He offered his hand to the General, who stretched out a sleeved arm that was… a motley of green, brown and black, randomly overlaid on each other in jagged, splintered shapes. Even his rank badges seem duller, thought Handhold, and that floppy maroon-red cap with the black badge… I'm sure he had a helmet when he came in?

"I'm sure you'll look after the boys!" boomed the General as he offered a bone-crushing handshake.

"But not to the point of mollycoddling them" their mother added. "Their adult lives will demand a lot of them. I know Hugglestones will toughen them up immeasurably!"

"We have a reputation for it, madame." Dr Garotte reassured her. "When the boys are grown and follow in their father's footsteps, they will have had the best possible grounding in living, how you say, ze Ephebian [3] lifestyle!"

"Ah yes, good old King Monosyllabes [4] and the Three Hundred." mused the General. "Fought to the last man against an entire Tsortean army. Sent that classic message back. Go tell the Ephebians… where the blasted hell were you? Damned hard man to get more than two words at a time from, as I recall".

Lady de Guerre gently trod on her husband's foot. He winced, then said "Of course, m'dear. We've taken up too much of the Headmaster's valuable time. Must be off, what? Got to see about getting their sister in at the Quirm Academy, for one thing".

As the family left, Professor Handhold assured himself that the General's uniform was in fact black, with silver trim and piping, decorated for some reason with a silver skull motif on buttons and badges. How could he have thought it were anything else…

"Know the man who inspired this uniform" de Guerre said, mistaking the Headmaster's interest. "Play cards with him, in fact. Old Mort has the original poker face…"

"We'll see the boys are with you at the start of the new term, Headmaster." Lady de Guerre said, bundling husband and sons out of the office. "I'm sure Nicky [5] and Roy [6] are looking forward to it already, aren't you, boys?"

"Oh yes, Mummy, Headmaster!" the boys chorused.

Odd, thought the Professor. I could have sworn she has the classic "Just wait till I get you home!" expression on her face, but I can't see what he did wrong. A most impressive chap, the general. I wonder if we could prevail upon him to do Prizegiving one year…

"A wise decision, Headmaster" Dr Garrotte commented. "I believe the children of… De Guerre… will be a positive asset to this school in many, many, ways. You never studied Quirmian?"

"Quirmian? Not one of my skills, I'm afraid".

"I somehow thought not, Headteacher. In the Guild, de Guerre is well studied. The consensus is that he would be most difficult to inhume".

"You don't think we should ask for several years' fees in advance, do you?"

"We are safe. Currently, there is no fee on his head, and the only Assassin ever to come up with a feasible approach to this inhumation was, alas, recorded as having disappeared on duty last Hogswatch. Now I wonder, Headmaster, if we can turn our attention to the examination papers…"

Totally unheeded, except by Bagshot of 2B , four horses and their riders ascended into the open skies outside the school….

"Hmm. Whose army does he fight for, by the way?" asked Handhold.

"Everybody's, I believe, Headmaster."

"Oh, Mercenary." Handhold was disappointed: he'd expected better. "Ah well, at least it'll pay the school fees."

"Quite so, Headmaster. Now, these Ephebian papers…"


  1. A garrotte, of course, is a strangling rope. Which as we all know is an option which is only permissible to Assassins of the second degree and above. (Pyramids) Go back to 1
  2. A nine-inch length of flexible leather strap, formerly indispensable in the Scottish and Irish educational systems as a correctional device. Hugglestones seems just the sort of place to perpetuate this disciplinary system on the Disc. Go back to 2
  3. The Roundworld referent is of course Sparta, not the rather less stringent lifestyle of other Greek states. Here, "Ephebian" means "cold beds, colder showers and minimal comforts". This is to distinguish it from another meaning of "Ephebian", as in "Ephebiam Island Lifestyle", or "one who attends the Blue Cat Club". Hugglestones does not condone such behaviour and in fact makes it a sacking offence. Go back to 3
  4. Sparta's most famous King was Laconides, who gives the English language the word "laconic", denoting a man of few, but well-chosen, words. Go back to 4
  5. Nicky: Panique Go back to 5
  6. Roy: Effroi Go back to 6

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