Chapter 5

Waleed had spent most of the morning getting the small office on the Street of Alchemists ready for the meeting. He'd had furniture carted from his father's shop, which took more time than he'd have liked because the KMRC actually only had the first floor of the building. The ground floor was a vacant alchemy workshop that he wouldn't work in even if it was available to him, because it smelled very strongly of alchemy and there were substances on the tables and floor that even an Assassin wanted to stay away from. So he had to, with the help of one of his father's shop workers, carry a desk, two filing cabinets and a collection of chairs up a flight of stairs. After the last one, he contemplated taking a nap in one of the chairs, but made a cup of Klatchian coffee instead because the committee members were due to arrive soon.

At the meeting, the first invitee to arrive was Lance-Constable Diwani, wearing a Watch uniform and a nervous look.

"Ah. Hello, Diwani. Anything interesting happen?"

"Yes! This big Klatchian girl showed up, confessed to the damages to her assailant, and was let go by Vimes after simply paying a fine, on account of 'about time someone dinged Cobley and no mistake.' The thug was known to the Watch and the matter is closed!"

"Good. Miss Sahaffy isn't going to be joining us. She lives and works in Genua and is only here on brief business. I know you're going to ask about the name. She's my cousin. She's a Vizier. Sort of."

"How can you be sort of a Vizier? I mean, it's an appointed position. You either are or you aren't."

"She has a relatively minor position in the government of Genua at the moment, but she studied at Vizier Academy. Which I only just learned exists."

"Speaking of Viziers…" said Diwani as Professor Nizam walked in.

Nizam rolled his eyes. "What about them?" he said.

"I was reunited with a cousin of mine who went to Vizier Academy and is now most definitely just a ministry clerk in Genua and in no way any kind of spy."

"So…she's a spy."

"I believe she is a ministry clerk who is doing some legitimate work here and also engaging in espionage," said Waleed. "But that's neither here nor there because Shiara isn't coming to the meeting."

"Can we make this a short meeting?" Diwani said. "I just got off patrol and haven't had any food."

"Zayida is bringing leftover food from the University. And here she is now."

The door swung open again, this time because it had been pushed by a cart bearing two pies, a cheese tray, some loaves of bread, a few jars of pickles, a fruit basket, and a pile of sliced roast beef.

"How did you get a cart up the stairs, Miss Wazir?" asked Nizam.

"Easy. It's a wizard's cart. It goes up them by magic," said Zayida. "As you can see, there's some bread and things to make sandwiches with. There's one meat pie and one fruit-nut pie, don't ask me which one's which because I only had time to pick this stuff up from the kitchen before the cooks had to send another lot up to the pointies."

Diwani was the first to the food cart, making a sandwich with the beef and adding some pickled onions. Waleed took a slice of each pie. The University was widely regarded as having the best food in the city. Even the Assassins' Guild food wasn't as good, though Waleed fondly remembered it. Except for that odd-tasting custard they used to get on Mondays.

"Nizam has an announcement for us all," said Waleed, once the rest of the Committee—now consisting of Zayida's father, two Thieves, a young Seamstress, and, inexplicably, Ponder Stibbons—had arrived. Waleed sort of wished Carrot was still coming to the meetings; he wasn't Klatchian, but he was quite good at the language and seemed to have a better handle on Watch stuff than Diwani.

"Yes," said Nizam. "The Ankh-Morpork Times have made me their Senior Consultant on Klatchian Affairs. Their…only, as well, but as a wizard, a fancy title is nothing to sneeze at. My first column appears in the Times tomorrow."

There was a round of applause, mostly started by Diwani, until Nizam looked at him.

"Sorry sir. We always clap for announcements at the Watch House."

"Didn't think Commander Vimes would stand for something like that," said Waleed. He was not going to try calling Commander Vimes "Mister Vimes" with a Watchman present.

"He doesn't, sir. He looks at us the way Nizam just did. But Carrot likes to clap, sir."

The young Seamstress raised her hand.

"Yes, Samra?"

"I'm getting on well at the Guild," she said. "I showed them all the Shuttered Palace last week and they thought it was brilliant! They're sending for a handmaiden from Djelibeybi to teach them things!"

"Nice to know, Samra, but I don't think that's quite pertinent information," said Nizam. "Congratulations regardless."

"Well, the week before that people were saying 'I don't want a Klatchian girl' but now they're queuing up for us! And it's all because of the Shuttered Palace!"

"What is she talking about?" asked Ponder.

"Things wizards shouldn't know about," said Samra.

"I'm sure the Thieves are going to tell us about some inconsequential event next," said Nizam hopelessly.

"No, sir," said one of the Thieves. They were both Klatchian, with black hair and the wiry build favored by their profession, but Waleed had been friends with them in his last year of school and could tell them apart quite easily. The one who went by "the Fox" these days had a burn scar on his forehead, which he told everyone was from a dragon but was really from carelessly handling a candle. The one who went by "the Jackal" had a slightly crooked nose from an incident he never told anyone about. They were the type of best friends who you expect to finish each other's sentences, but never do because they actually have respect for what their friend is saying. They were, in fact, thick as thieves. Waleed knew exactly why the phrase was not "thick as Assassins."

"Nizam, do you know anything about a thug named Cobley?"

"Yes. He's known for violence against dwarfs, Klatchians and other newcomers to Ankh-Morpork. Though stunningly, not trolls."

"He got rejected from the Thieves' Guild!" said the Fox. "We may not have a lot of complex rules like you lot, Sahaffy, but we have some, and he broke all of them in his first tryout! Mr. Boggis had him physically ejected from the building!"

"Write that down, Diwani, in case his case comes up," said Waleed. "Now, I think that covers major announcements. Moving on to the budget."

"Stibbons?" said Nizam.

"I'm sorry, sir, you haven't put me on the budget here. I'm just along as a friend."

"Sorry, Stibbons, force of habit. Of course I wouldn't burden you with our numbers as well as the University's. I've burdened myself with them. Here they are, Waleed. We've gotten some donations this week."

"Enough to cover the clacks bill for soliciting them?"

"And then some."

The rest of the meeting proceeded, and Waleed was 'd actually gotten more out of the Committee than he'd expected, and after declaring the meeting closed and announcing the date for the next one, he walked home with a sense of accomplishment.

A few days later

It was the middle of the night, and while some people would have hastened home out of fear something would happen to them, Waleed didn't. He was an Assassin. He was something that happened to people. In fact, he'd just happened to a young lord whose neighbors just couldn't be having with his disgraceful treatment of them any longer.

On the way home, he walked past the entrance to the Street of Alchemists. It was tempting to check in on the office. Clean up the graffiti and bin the bricks before the next meeting, that sort of thing. He walked down the street and climbed the outside stairs, then unlocked the door.

It was immediately apparent that this mess was not something Waleed could clean up quickly. There was a hole in one of the doors that looked like it had been caused by an explosion, and the graffiti covered nearly every wall and was written in blood that Waleed hoped hadn't come from a human. However, the metallic round thing attached to a fleshy lump by the hole in the door gave him a clue.

"That poor dragon," he said.

Someone had dragonbombed his office. Lady Sybil would be enraged.

Waleed was not enraged, but that was only because he had expected something like this to happen. Now that it had, he was channeling his anger into getting something done.

He stuck his head out the window and yelled "The Watch! Quickly! I need the Watch!"

This was a moderately nice part of the city. A blond woman came running up right away. She pointed to her badge and said, "Sergeant Angua von Uberwald at your service. Say, you're that Sahaffy fellow. What's going on?"

"You'd better come up here, Sergeant. Things are pretty bad. I think someone's dragonbombed my office."

Angua dashed up the stairs and entered the office. She looked around, then sniffed the air.

"Dragonbomb, all right. Smells disgusting in here. Happened recently. I'd say, Mr. Sahaffy, that if you'd been in here a mere hour ago, you'd have been caught in the blast."

"But at least if it happened that recently you can get the werewolf to track who did it?"

"What werewolf?" Angua said, glaring at him. "Besides, it wouldn't work. They'd be too distracted by the dragon's blood. That is, if we had one."

Waleed decided that this wasn't worth arguing with, though he did find it quite suspicious. You quickly became good at evasive doublespeak at the Assassins' Guild, not because of any illegality but simply because it was so tacky and amateurish to speak of killing people in such plain terms. Oh, he wasn't nearly as good at it as some other people he could mention—like those who enjoyed saying, for example, "Don't let me detain you"—but he was certainly good enough to spot when it was being used by a beautiful w—

"Snap out of it man!" said Angua, giving him a slap across the back that, as she was quite a bit taller than he was, definitely snapped him out of it. "We need facts! Right now, the fact we need is who's got access to the ground floor. They didn't come in through the window, or the outside door you and I used. They came in through the ground floor, walked up the stairs, and bombed your inside door. Then, they wrote on your walls in dragon's blood—though some of it's actually paint—and left. Hole's big enough for a human, but not a troll. Can't rule out dwarf, either, though I'll tell you it's a long shot. No beard hairs. Not an undead, I'll tell you that for certain. Someone Reg Shoe would call 'conventionally alive'. Who usually uses the ground floor?"

"Nobody. It's a vacant workshop. The owner hasn't found a new tenant yet. Stinks of alchemy down there, so we took the upstairs."

"Does someone lock up the ground floor?"

"I presume so. I've always used the upper landing to get in when I'm here after hours, though."

"Are you often?"

"Yes. We got occasional vandalism even before this, though usually on the level of bricks through the window or graffiti on the outside wall. Nobody's gotten in before now. I sometimes happen to be out and about in the hours of darkness, and it's easy enough for me to stop by here and check on the place. At least, it was before now."

"We'll have to go downstairs and see if anyone broke in down there."

Waleed led Angua down the stairs and to the vacant room smelling of alchemy.

"Doesn't look like there's any damage here," Angua said.

"So what'd they do? Get the landlord's key and come in like a normal person?" asked Waleed. "It's what I'd do. If I was going to dragonbomb a target on the first floor of a building with a ground floor that also does legitimate business. But I wouldn't, because there might be collateral damage and because I rather like dragons. I had one as a pet once but I couldn't take it to the Guild. They don't allow dragons. Something about how mirrors make them explode."

"There was mirror glass by the hole in your door."

"And wood."

"Yes. The only time I've seen it done before, the person put the dragon in a wooden box, then lifted a divider to uncover the mirror. You have to hide it from the dragon beforehand. Of course, if you know there'll be a mirror where you're going, you can use it, but that's riskier."

Angua examined the door to the street, and nodded to Waleed. "Much as Mister Vimes would scold me for listening to an Assassin, I think you're right. This door was unlocked. Not re-locked, though. Makes sense. You set up a dragonbomb, you don't stick around."

Waleed was still disappointed by the way members of the Watch treated him. It wasn't like he disturbed the peace. In fact, he liked to think that his targets were worse for the city than he was. He thought Lord Vetinari would approve. Then again, were he to say that to Vimes, Vimes would only tell him that Lord Vetinari was an Assassin himself, so of course he'd approve.

"So what are you going to do now?"

"Leave, get more watchmen, and come back. You, on the other hand, can go home. Or wherever Assassins go in the middle of the night. We'll get back in touch with you if we need you."

"Thank you, sergeant. Please give my regards to Diwani as well."

"Certainly. But I'm sure your paths will cross again, because I'm going to try to get him on this case."

"And please tell Lady Sybil about the dragon. She has a bee in her bonnet about this sort of thing, as I'm sure you know."

"I rarely see Lady Sybil. I'll tell Mister Vimes about the dragon."

"Thank you. He may not care about what happened to an office when nobody was inside it, but if Lady Sybil hears someone's killed a dragon she'll be on the case like one of those women who carry the dead off of battlefields. Except she'll probably kill the bugger herself beforehand."

"You certainly have a way with words, Mr. Sahaffy."

"Are you going to bring the werewolf?"

"What werewolf?"

Waleed headed home. He was sure she'd bring the totally non-existent werewolf. Now all he had to do was go back to the Guild to fill out some paperwork and find a new meeting space.

Or he could inhume two birds with one stone and reserve meeting space in the Guild. It was probably one of the safest places in the city if you weren't a student and didn't have a contract out on you.