Whistle, and he'll come to thee, my lad…. 4

A Discworld short. Inspired by incidental detail in Unseen Academicals.

Edited to remove all typos that point to intimaste female undergarments, ie "brass" comes out as "bras", or the last syllable of "abracadabra", and thus attracts an interesting kind of advertiser. But it's not that sort of story, Fraulein von Teufelstein notwithstanding...

Incidentally, I've re-read Unseen Academicals, but unless I'm missing anything, there's no clue as to how Evans the PE Master got the nickname "Evans the Striped". Ideas, anyone? (And yes, the text hints Evans might have been a wizard, but doesn't say it for certain…so I think it's OK to leave him an untrained civilian in this fanfic. Besides, to become a wizard suggests a degree of if not brainpower, then subtlety of mind, which PE teachers aren't famed for having. Elsewhere, though, I've cleared up the paradox of an Assassin PE Teacher by making him a skilled killer with blunt instruments - medicine balls, Indian clubs, boxing gloves, deliberately defective gym equipment such as the gymnastic rings installed in my old school gym, et c.)

Mustrum Ridcully would not have defined himself as a schoolteacher. It was just something he was doing, for now, for pressing expedient reasons. So he lacked the deep-down teacher genes that defined (or would in the future define) a Susan Sto Helit, an Alice Band, or a Joan Sanderson-Reeves.

But after six months of Form 3B, he was learning fast, and some things are common to all teachers, however variable in ability. Besides, he was schooled himself, in the paranoid ways of Unseen University, and being able to read a mood, an atmosphere or to decipher those words that were very carefully being unsaid was a survival skill. If you couldn't cultivate it quickly, then you didn't survive.

Those buggers are up to something, he decided, looking over the top of Seriously Advanced Higher Level Transmigration to where the class were, on the face of it, quietly occupied in prep work.

There's something I don't know. And whatever it is, it's going to happen soon. He felt reasonably sure it wasn't going to happen to him, whatever it was. His mind ran down a likely list of targets. Hmmm. Form 4W had tried a basic Invisibility of Apparel spell on young Miss von Teufelstein, their Überwaldean teacher. Scamps. The theory was, Invisibility of Apparel, also known as Emperor's New Clothes, once cast on a person, meant that the last person to realise their clothes had been rendered completely invisible was the person it had been cast upon. The subject could still feel the clothes they were wearing, as indeed they should, for the garments were still there. They would still believe they were decently dressed, as the invisibility worked only one way. People inside the clothing would still see it and believe it was decently opaque.. But people looking at 'em from outside…

That had been the theory, at least. Rag the new teacher, and give the inexperienced new girl the full treatment. But Fraulein von Teufelstein had taken good advice from Miss McGrogann and got hold of a basic amulet or two, designed to alert the non-wizard to spells being cast and to block any low-level magic being tried on them(1). And the moment it had started happenin', she had taught the pupils some useful Überwaldean, alright, for e.g., that Teufelstein translates as "Pot of Demons"(2) . They wouldn't try that again in a hurry… what wizards responding to the noise had discovered was a determined blonde Valkyrie in semi-transparent clothing going off like a small dragon, scattering terrified pupils in all directions. In this case, subsequent disciplinaries had been almost superfluous, although, strictly speaking, this was a spell that was banned to them until they were well over eighteen and preferably well over eighty.

No, it's got to be somebody else. Henry, maybe? But he's an advanced wizard like me, so if any of the little sods throws a spell, he'll bounce it straight back at them. And Henry would not be a kindly man if attacked magically. No idea where to stop.

No, thought Ridcully. Maybe I should do the pastoral thing. Invite the obvious ringleaders to me study for an informal chat, make toast and tea available, see what I can get out of 'em in private.

He grunted, and glared in the direction of that little troublemaker Hicks and his pals Worblehat, Mackerel and the others. Hicks looked back with an expression of inscrutable innocence, of the sort that made any self-respecting schoolteacher instantly suspicious.

At this point in the Text, I am conjoined by Lore to most earnestly admonish and conjoin the Student that this occult and arcane practice, while most efficacious if done with all due care and attention, should be performed with thoughtful care and Respect for the ethical issues involved and the Wellbeing of all parties involved. It should not be entertained if the only, nor indeed the Main, consideration be the Financial Emoluments available to the skilled practitioner of the Art of Exorcism which is the necessary consequence of the practice we are discussing, nor indeed if mere Convenience is the major Motive. For the temptation to the Immoral and Unethical will always be the low and base pursuit of mere earthly Gold, which should not be that of the academic and disinterested practitioner of Magic.

At this point, some previous user of the book had excitedly pencilled $$$$$$$! in the margin, and the author had gone on after the paragraph of stern admonishment to list several pages full of examples of how the Art had been abused, by the Unscrupulous and Worldly, to make large amounts of $$$$$$$! to the detriment of their souls.

Quite long, detailed, accounts, as if the author meant to leave no stone un-turned and no detail omitted in his condemnation of the regrettably criminal and base element in wizardry.

Hicks excitedly read all this, and grinned. Necromancy was going to be fun

You're all good lads and damn' fine prospects to become fully fledged student Wizards, and I'm pleased with you all, you're comin' on a treat." Ridcully said, amiably. The five invited members of 3B mumbled their thanks, and sipped their hot tea, which Ridcully had obtained by bribing an Elevenses waitress to stop by his rooms and drop off part of the contents of her specially reinforced heavy-duty trolley. Cakes and biscuits were also available.

He had taken advantage of the occasion to gently grill his pupils about their intentions once they passed out of School and into the university proper. He had a suspicion that, if he decided to stay on and go for a Faculty place after getting his Seventh, he might well be dealing with some of these clever little sods in years to come, and it paid to ensure there'd be no bad memories of his time in charge of 'em. Besides, he could have used the odd kindness himself during his time as a pupil, some sort of acknowledgement from his teachers that they all belonged to the same species. It did no harm to relax the formalities now and again.

"But, and let me make this clear to you all. At this level you only learn to do the very basic, simple, magic. That serves to steer you in the right direction, and people like me monitor you to be sure you have what it takes to move on when the time is right. Your progress to undergraduate depends on you all keepin' clean sheets and not bein' caught misbehavin', d'y'hear? Any mucking around with advanced magic that you aren't meant to handle, if there's anythin' left of you when it goes wrong, you get sent down. End of your career as wizards, though the enthrallin' career of conjurer or thaumaturgist beckons !"

He glared around him to see if the threat – and the hidden message – had been understood. If it were down to me, any School pupil who uses advanced magic and gets it right, that's showin' talent. I'd get him on an undergraduate course or two straight away, bugger his age.

And he was no further to finding out what they were cooking up among themselves. He'd have to wait and see.

Hicks and the seven selected co-conspirators met at midnight for a final run-through. Where they'd be standing, what their part in the ritual was, and which part of the text they were to memorise. Hicks very carefully did not rehearse the whole spell at once. But care was taken that they would be standing exactly at the points of a ceremonial octagram. Each participant would hold a card with nameless occult symbols drawn on it, which would normally decorate the points of that octagram. Again and again he adjusted their positions, and got them to remember exactly where they were standing in relation to each other. The book on Geometry for Wizards helped. So as to leave no trace that would alert the wizards to illicit magic, Hicks had the brainwave of cutting eight exactly equal lengths of string. If two wizards held a length just so and pulled it taut, then a second length of string was held between two other wizards and pulled taut, and so on around a circle of eight people, with each wizard holding two strings, then with all eight pulled taut, there was only one possible geometric shape eight people could form.(3)

A perfect closed octagram.

Which was perfect for the magic Hicks had in mind as a means of getting rid of Mr Evans.

Evans the Striped had taken to avoiding the staffroom. He felt resentful, for one thing, that he was doing his job to the best of his ability and it was attracting only criticism from the rest of them, bloody intellectuals, a good run in the wet would do them all good. Especially that disgusting fat porker Henry. There were some kids you just could not reach, and he was certain Henry had been one of them, soft fat unathletic disgrace. He excluded Mustrum Ridcully from this criticism, as Ridcully was one he quite liked, as they shared certain interests and were in full agreement that the boys should be made physically fit and given physical challenges.

His lonely jog around the University campus had taken him to the Great Hall.

He'd always thought this was a waste of a perfectly good space. All they used it for was eating, for goodness sake. Over-eating, if you asked his opinion. They were trying to undermine his work, that was clear: this growing emphasis on big dinners and minimal physical activity was nothing short of sabotage. The fact it might have been a necessary reaction against his form of physical education did not enter his head for a second as he entered and looked around him.

He'd made a perfectly reasonable case for converting this big, high, space into a gymnasium and getting the most out of it. Those tall bare walls cried out for climbing bars. Oh, those old stained glass windows would have to go, of course. Let in too little light, and in any case with medicine balls flying around, there's be too much broken glass, make the place look untidy. And climbing ropes, up to those rafters! The Assassins' Guild School had pupils who could climb a free-hanging rope in twenty seconds. Probably too much to expect from some of the miserable specimens at this school, but oh! The joy of making a fat boy try to climb a rope! Herr Bimmler had emphasised the job satisfaction to be got from that!

Evans got down and started doing press-ups.

They told me they have the annual Convivium in here. I'm not an unreasonable man, they can carry on having it in the school gym, but I want a new floor laid. The degree conferral, well, they can put tarpaulins down to spare damage to my floor. Woe betide anyone walking on my gymnasium floor in outdoor shoes!(4)


And they turned it down because they said it was impractical! (5)

Evans suddenly realised he wasn't alone. Legs were surrounding him. Pupil legs.

Hicks had realised they were going to have to do it soon. Mr Ridcully was getting suspicious and had taken to extra dorm checks after lights-out. Fortunately there was no damning evidence, like a chalked octagram on the floor. They had been sent back to bed with a stern word. But it had been a close call.

Watching Evans go into the Great Hall, Hicks and his associates had followed. They only had the twenty-minute morning break to pull this off in…

Mustrum Ridcully watched from the staffroom window as Hicks and several other boys from 3b disappeared out of the school yard as if by common agreement.. It was clear something was happening. He nodded, excused himself, and left the staffroom.

"What are you boys doing here!" Evans demanded, through his press-ups. He did not notice them taking positions, but he did notice the hicks boy taking a book from his pocket.

"You can get out! As I'm in a good mood I will not penalise you!"

What are they doing with that string… and laying those pieces of card out on the floor?

Hicks began to intone a ritual.

"As it pleaseth thee or it pleaseth thee not, spirit of Geraint Evans, let it be known that ye have no choice in this…"

Evans began to feel dizzy.

The actual mechanism of the ritual was in the counterpoint chanting from the other seven participants. Much later on, Ponder Stibons would theorise, with HEX, that this set up a harmonic field that generated an eight-sided octagonal cone of power, contained in this case by taut string making a regular octagram that was every bit as good as a chalked line. HEX would map this effect and project it on an omniscope: it looked, coloured in, like one of those swirly pointy tower roofs you saw on Kremlins in Far Zlobenia, where eight different-coloured facets swirled up together into a vaguely rounded but even structure that billowed out then came to a pointy cone at the top. The whole looking like an architectural ice-cream cone.

"I-O, I-O, I-A-O!" chanted Pennysmart, invoking the Higher Group Mind.

"A-bara', ka'd'a'brah!" chanted Mackerel, drawing down the Magickal Force.

"Ook, ee-ook,ee-ook, ook, ook!" chanted Horace Worblehat, uniting the Lower Soul, generally visualised as a large forest ape, with the Higher Mind.

And Geraint Evans felt life and power and sentience slip away. With a last despairing cry of "You boys will…" , there was an implosion in the air, and a cloud of settling dust on the stone-flagged floor.

Mustrum Ridcully burst in to see a makeshift octagram – full marks for improvisation there, you boys – and the tinkle as a long brass whistle fell to the stone. Some things need no explanation.

Students and teacher looked at each other for several long seconds. Then Ridcully broke the silence.

"Well. Looks as if we'll be advertisin' for a new PE teacher, I see."

He took stock. A whistle, a pile of dust, and...

"Put that string away. You know you can't properly make a ceremonial octogram with a piece of string. Somebody's course notes on the floor? Pick 'em up, lad looks untidy."

He gestured Hicks to give him the book. He leafed through it and whistled.

"Insorcism, eh? And Evans ain't exactly dead, he's in…"

He looked to the whistle. Lustrous, gleaming brass, eight inches long, and oozing sinister sentience.

"Nobody touch that. I'll deal with it."

Then he picked it up.

"I'll parcel it up with his effects. You, boy. Go and find a cleaner's cupboard. Get a dustpan and brush and some sort of box."

Mackerel ran off to obey. Ridcully looked benevolently at the students.

"Chap's evidently had a magical accident of some sort. There's a place where we store the remains in the hope that one day, technomancy might allow us to rescusitate. Otherwise, you fellows, it's murder. You hear me? Now, I'm going to take the view that there's no possible way third year School students could do something like this and pull it off. Nor do they normally gain access to forbidden books that university lore says should not be on open library shelves. Insorcism is a crime against the Lore, you hear me? No messin' with it. "

He glared at them for a few seconds. Then something like a grin crossed his face.

"Wizards die here every day." He said. "It's a dangerous profession. So you heard the scream, ran in, but there was nothing you could do to save Mr Evans. Tsk tsk. But accidents happen. Now sweep him up into that box and give him to me. Off you all go and try to learn from this."

The boys turned gratefully to leave.

"Oh, and Hicks? I'll be watchin' you." Ridcully concluded.

Ridcully deposited Evans' ashes in the Intensive Neglect room, assuring the wizard in charge there was no great need to rush over this one. The whistle went into Evans' room, which Ridcully took great care to lock thoroughly behind him. And Evans the Striped was forgotten by everyone, including Ridcully, for the best part of half a century...

The inquiry into the disappearance of Evans the Striped was perfunctory and disinterested. The Arch-Chancellor noted that he had incurred so much hostility that a list of suspects would stretch three times round the Great Hall, and anyway we all have better things to do. Take a leaf from the Watch, and call it suicide, and close the book, and lthen et's have lunch. Smashing. Inquest adjourned.

And the boys of 3B, disappointed that PE lessons had not been cancelled, waited in the cold to see who was covering the lesson. At least they'd had time to change at leisure today.

"Alright, you fellows!" a familiar voice boomed. "Twice round the field, bit of a warm-up to get ourselves ready, then we might play a bit of lacrosse. I've got the sticks and helmets waitin' for you!"

It was Mustrum Ridcully.

Who, Hicks had to agree, at least respected your right to change in good time, and never laid a finger on anyone, even if he couldn't do anything about the showers.

Things could be worse…

(1) The University Council had agreed this was acceptably prudent for non-wizards working with students. They had to attract and keep schoolteachers somehow….

(2) Yes, in this context, "-stein" usually means "mountain". But Ridcully is working from his own specialised and personal form of Überwaldean, in which the word "Stein" means "container for beer, made out of pot with a lid on, used for quaffing purposes". In this case, not a beer-mug where you'd care to open the lid and allow the contents to come flying out.

(3) similar strategies have been used, with people and ropes, to form those bewilderingly exact geometric shapes known as corn circles.

(4) Did your school have this rule as well? Was it a hanging offence to go into the gym in outdoor shoes? Ours did. If an assembly was held in there we had to take our shoes off, and there was always some kid in three-day-old socks whose feet reeked…

(5) At my old school, there was an ongoing war between the Art Department and the PE Department over the fate of the school's older, 1920's, gym, that even in the 1970's had come to the end of its useful life and had been supplemented by a brand-new purpose built sports hall. Art and Music said, perfectly reasonably, there was no need for two gyms. Their grand plan was to have the older gym converted into a two-floor dedicated arts and music block, allowing for studios, galleries, and soundproofed practice rooms where a boy could learn to play the tuba in peace without teachers in neighbouring clasrooms banging on the wall for the bloody racket to be turned down. The PE Deaprtment objected stenuously to this, and since the Deputy Head was a former PE master, fought a rearguard action for a long time. The old gym was not converted to an Arts and Music faculty until the late 1990's...