Disclaimer: I don't own the characters or world

Fools

"Sir, you've been putting off this meeting ever since their Guild acquired a new leader," Downey explained reproachfully.

Dr. Cruces pinched the bridge of his nose. His deputy was right, of course. He did not want to see the new fool. The last head of the Fools' Guild had had been a rather sad looking, dumpy little man with a bright blue wig and a wide painted grin. It wasn't his appearance that had been so off-putting, although this had contributed, it was his sense of tradition. Dr. Cruces had mistakenly assumed that as one guild leader to another, the head clown would dispense with his 'hilarious' little jokes. Dr. Cruces had learned a valuable lesson, though. He would never again shake any clown by the hand, no matter where they were in the Guild hierarchy.

"What ever happened to the last head of the Fools' Guild, Downey?"

"A nervous breakdown, I think. It took their council a week to realise it. They assumed he was simply attempting a new comedy technique."

Dr. Cruces sighed. "Invite this 'Dr. Whiteface' to the Guild. I might as well get this over with."

Downey nodded and left the office of the head assassin.

~X~

The meeting was scheduled in three days time at noon. The Assassins' Guild bell had just tolled for the twelfth and final time when Downey entered Cruces study and explained that the head of the Fools' Guild had arrived. Downey did not appear to have fallen afoul of any humorous activities. It was reassuring and Dr. Cruces instructed his deputy to show in his guest. There was no sense in delaying the inevitable.

The man who the entered the room was almost ethereal. His face and clothing appeared bleached of all colour. He was a ghost and the fine black lines of face-paint only served to enhance the severity of his expression. It was clear that despite the precise outline of a smile, this was not a face that was accustomed to such a frivolous expression. He took a seat opposite the assassin. He did not offer his hand.

Dr. Cruces blinked. "Dr. Whiteface, I presume."

Dr. Whiteface inclined his head. "Indeed."

"Would you like a drink?"

Most visitors were unnerved by the proximity of the workbench to the decanters. The especially skittish would often squeak a refusal. Dr. Whiteface merely lifted his brow, causing a slim painted eyebrow to arch. "At this hour? Very well, it would be impolite to decline such hospitality."

Dr. Cruces was surprised. He had always found clowns somewhat unnerving. No one was ever really comfortable around a clown, but until this meeting he would never have called a clown chilling. The fact that Dr. Cruces was a senior assassin for his Guild was one of the few reasons that he would not call Dr. Whiteface frightening.

The head of the Assassins' Guild could inhume the man in front of him in a variety of interesting ways. Though he decided that if the contract was ever given to the Guild, he would give it to one of the others. Preferably to one of the senior assassins or one of the cocky young ones who needed to be taught a lesson. The man dressed all in white did not look like he had ever taken a pie to the face and had only indirectly experienced whitewash by inflicting it on others.

"I assume that you have invited me for a reason. You do not seem the sort to enjoy mindless chit-chat," Dr. Whiteface begun.

Dr. Cruces allowed himself a small smile. "You are quite correct. Since our Guilds border one another, I deemed it necessary to meet with you and perhaps set out some sort of framework to prevent any troubles."

Dr. Whiteface nodded. "That is understandable. Your assassins are commendably quiet at night, so I don't have any problems in that regard. I would prefer if they didn't use our rooftops for their night time traffic, though."

"That could be arranged. The students say that the only noise that comes from your Guild's students at night is the occasional sobbing through the walls and the humorous honking sounds of blown noses."

Dr. Whiteface's smile was cold. "I see. I can implement a rule that would prevent the honking. Something to the effect of 'no studying after lights out' should suffice."

"Good, good," said Dr. Cruces with rather forced joviality. "My only other problem is the occasional errant pie that finds its way over the walls."

"Ah yes, we'll move the pie range to face a different wall. Those with poor aim are usually disarmed and used for target practice. I find it keeps them motivated."

Dr. Cruces gave his guest an appraising look. "You are a very serious man, Dr. Whiteface."

The clown smiled his cold little smile again. "Humour is a serious business."

Dr. Cruces paused for a moment. "I feel compelled to ask why you chose your current profession. You do not seem very..." Dr. Cruces hesitated. He did not wish to insult the man in front of him and it was a desire that was only partly mediated by a gentleman's code.

Dr. Whiteface saved him the embarrassment. "Perhaps the phrase you are searching for is that I do not look like a fool."

"Ah, yes."

Dr. Whiteface's amused expression drew attention to the artificial nature of the fine painted smile. "Sometimes our professions choose us rather than the other way around. We make do."

Dr. Cruces found this a vague and dissatisfying answer, but he would concede that it was a rather personal question. He found himself reconsidering his opinion of what sort of person was attracted to the occupation of clown.

"Well, I suppose that addresses my concerns, if there is anything you wish to discuss in future, I am more than happy to have another audience," Dr. Cruces informed his guest.

The Guild leaders stood. Dr. Cruces extended his hand. It was more than the simple gesture of a handshake. He was willing to extend his trust to a known clown. While he briefly debated his own sanity, he was almost certain that Dr. Whiteface was not one to make a handshake hilarious in this context. "I look forward to a calm and efficient neighbouring arrangement," Dr. Cruces explained.

Dr. Whiteface regarded the other's hand for a moment, his expression thoughtful. "You will forgive me if I don't shake. One never knows what an assassin could be concealing in the hand of friendship."

With that, the leader of fools turned and exited in a steady, measured pace. Dr. Cruces was left staring at his hand and cursing all clowns.