The Ankh-Morpork Assassins' Guild is a fictional school for professional killers in Terry Pratchett's longrunning 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 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 Assassin's. The guild is currently headed by Lord Downey.
The assassins did have a certain code. After all, it was dishonourable to kill someone if you weren't being paid.
- 1 History
- 2 Notable locations
- 3 Structure and activities
- 4 Coat of arms
- 5 School Houses (and their House Tutors)
- 6 Code of conduct
- 7 Assassins featured in the books
- 8 Open commissons
- 9 See also
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 in Ankh-Morpork.
In AM1576 the school was elevated to the status of a Guild. 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).
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
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 passed 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".
Structure and activities
Pratchett describes the Assassins' Guild in The Art of Discworld as a typical British public school with the knobs turned up to eleven. It bears a striking resemblance to that of the novel Tom Brown's School Days. 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. Many houses appear to have been named after benefactors, such as Mrs Beddowes or Wigblock Prior. 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". 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."
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 edificeering--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
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).
School Houses (and their House Tutors)
- Viper House (Mr Nivor)
- Scorpion House (Lady T'Malia)
- Tump House (Miss Band)
- Broken Moons House (Mr Moody)
- Raguineau's (Baron Strifenkanen)
- Pernypopax Dampier (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)
- BlackWidow House -- Girls (Mmme les Deux-Épées)
- Welcome Soap House (Mr Graumunchen)
- Raven House (Miss Smith-Rhodes)
Code of conduct
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 or chemical weapons. 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 (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 (pg 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).
Assassins featured in the books
Main article: Havelock Vetinari
Lord Vetinari appears as a student assassin in Night Watch but is apparently no longer practising. He is the current Patrician of Ankh-Morpork and the Diary lists him as 'Provost of Assassins', presumably an honorary position.
Main article: Dr. Cruces
Head of the Assassins' Guild in Men at Arms. He is elitist and looks down on the Watch as members of a lower social strata. 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.
Main article: Lord Downey
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. In the Sky One adaptation of Hogfather Downey was played by David Warner.
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 a Klatchian equivalent of a watchman on 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 Assassin's 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.
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 skirt... his skirt." 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, who 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.
Main article: Mr Teatime
Mr Jonathan Teatime is one of the major villains in Hogfather. 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 (Lord Downey states that, on reflection, they should have wondered a bit more about this). While he never explicitly broke any rule, he certainly didn't follow Guild's ethics in that manner that he truly enjoyed kill, especially messy overkill. This repelled Lord Downey, who privately decided to set Mr. Teatime "an accident", prior to the events of Hogfather.
During the events of Hogfather, he was given the assignment to to assassinate the Hogfather himself. Much to the Lord Downey's surprise, Mr. Teatime have already had prepared several potential plans to assassinate not only the Hogfather but few other supernatural entities all well (including Death), all during his spare time.
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.
Other noted assassins
- 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 Sam Vimes after deciding Wiggs was overconfident.
- 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; 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 first female pupils.
- 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 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.
|Hogfather||AM$3,000,000||Has expired (original contract called for the inhumation to occur within 3 days)|
|Lord Vetinari||AM$1,000,000||Officially unlisted|
|Samuel Vimes||AM$940,000 and rising||Officially unlisted|
|Moist von Lipwig||AM$200,000||Listed in Making Money if Moist failed in the duty left to him by Mrs Lavish|
|Nobby Nobbs||AM$4.31||Believed to be a joke by some of the Watch|
|Foul Ole Ron||One groat|
|Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler||Tuppence||Price given by one Assassin (Lord Robert Selachii) to another (His apprentice) whilst pursuing Imp Y Celyn, Glod & Lias/Cliff who were Dibbler's associates in Soul Music. The response given was "It's certainly tempting--"|
|Imp y Celyn||unknown||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.|
Note: "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. (Prachett writes this as if their deaths would be the equivalent of not only taking a bishop, but smashing the entire chessboard as well. Assassins are also taught Political Expediency, to reinforce this.) Lord Vetinari and Samuel Vimes are, as of the events in Night Watch, the only people currently unlisted. Vimes worked his way up to a $600,000 price, but Inigo Skimmer revealed that the last time someone wanted Vimes assassinated, no Assassin would take on the job. Later, it's revealed he's finally been unlisted, and hinted that the Assassins believe Vimes' hypothetical death, like Vetinari's, would drastically change the politics of the city. (Additionally, Vimes' reputation for having many and ingenious booby traps around his office and his home is so well-known among the Assassins that at least one teacher sends overconfident students there so they may gain some humility.) Vimes is considering appealing the ruling because he views attempts on his life as a sign that he's having a positive effect and 'annoying the sort of people who should be annoyed'.
- Guilds of Ankh-Morpork
- Ankh-Morpork Thieves' Guild
- Ankh-Morpork Beggars' Guild
- Fools' Guild (Discworld)