Selfish Little Bastards!

The Modern Language and Music classroom of the Assassins’ Guild. Rows of desks are set up, facing the blackboard, while posters and plaques adorn the walls. A piano sits opposite the blackboard and other musical instruments are displayed on shelves.

There is one obvious exit: north.

Diana opens the north door.

Diana arrives from the north.

Diana closes the north door.

Diana shuts the door quietly and looks into the room.

Andrew d’Ackerley looks up and nods politely.

Diana looks a little out of place as she consults a piece of paper with a frown. She nods back at the occupant of the room and at the regal lecturer before looking back at the door.

Andrew d’Ackerley politely says: Can we help you, miss? You look a little lost.

Diana jumps slightly at being spoken to but smiles and shows you a piece of paper. “I’m looking for my aunt. I think she’s a nurse here in this guild. Her name’s Gladys Smithson.”

Andrew d’Ackerley politely says to Diana: Ah, yes. You’ll likely find her in one of the classrooms, if not in her office. Don’t worry wandering around, you’ll be told if you’re straying into a closed off area.

Diana can’t hide the relief that leaps into her eyes. “Thank you. Uhm. There are very few signs, so it’s hard to tell where I’m allowed. But it’s good to know I’ll be warned.” She puts the paper in her skirt pocket. “I don’t suppose you know where her office is?”

Andrew d’Ackerley politely says: It’s on this floor or the one above, I believe. You’ll forgive me, I haven’t actually gone there in years… Been a long time since I was a boy with scraped knees, haha.

Andrew d’Ackerley looks a bit embarrassed.

Diana looks like she’s trying not to laugh, as it’s clearly hard to imagine certain people were once children. She smiles, and looks raptly at the boards instead, despite not understanding a word on them, hoping she won’t giggle. “Oh don’t worry. I’ll look around.”

Andrew d’Ackerley politely says to Diana: Please do call out if you get so lost that we should send a rescue group, miss.

Diana leaps out of her skin, almost, as the sound of an explosion makes the ground shake.

Andrew d’Ackerley sayz: … That would be the Alchemist’s Guild. Again.

Andrew d’Ackerley says: They do that a lot, I fear.

Diana trembles slightly. “I live in the Ramtops and we don’t hear things like that. At all. If ever. Ever.”

Andrew d’Ackerley says to Diana: Goodness, yes. That must be quite the cultural shock for you.

Andrew d’Ackerley helpfully asks: At least we have no wolves in the streets?

Diana looks at Andrew with relief that someone understands. “Oh I don’t mind the wolves and they don’t mind me. I live in the woods all year long except in the winter, and then I have lodgings in Lancre itself. But you see, my uncle died. My dad’s and Gladys’ brother. So of course I came to tell her about it because – well – it’s a long story.”

Andrew d’Ackerley says: Oh my. I am sorry for your loss, miss. I must admit that personally, I find wolves a little troubling.

Diana says to Andrew with a Lancrastian accent: Thank you for your sympathy.

The Kompt de Yoyo smiles at Diana.

Diana thinks about this. “Why? You know they don’t bother you if you don’t bother them.”

Andrew d’Ackerley politely says to Diana: Ah, we have a bit of a family tradition where I was born… And you don’t want to know about that, you’re looking for Nurse Gladys. Sorry, I do tend to ramble.

Diana smiles. “Well, thank you for pointing me to her office anyway.” She waves and leaves but returns in a few minutes. “Is it okay if I wait here? She’s seeing to some student in the dormitories.”

Andrew d’Ackerley says: Goodness, yes, do pull up a chair. This is the most quiet classroom on the guild campus, that’s why I tend to spend time here. No students.

Andrew d’Ackerley says ‘students’ in a tone that clearly references sticky little boys.

Diana perches on one of the chairs and looks interestedly at the piano. “Thank you. I didn’t want to sit in her office by myself.”

Andrew d’Ackerley catches the look. “Do you play? Feel free. My collegue here may even praise you.”

Diana looks nervous. “I do like music, a lot, but I never learned to play any instrument.” She reaches out tentatively.

Showing no real skill, Diana plays a few clashing bars on the piano.

Diana retreats to her chair.

Andrew d’Ackerley gently says: Everyone has to start somewhere, miss. I’ve yet to meet anyone who was born playing the bagpipes.

Diana laughs and nods. “Yes, the Lancre Bagpipes are a great instrument, so mournful. It’s tradition to play it at weddings and deaths, so we hear it often enough in the mountains.” She nods at the piano. “Do you play?”

Andrew d’Ackerley gently says: Some. Not enough to call myself skilled. I did try my luck with a bagpipe once, though. My manservant thought I was skinning a cat.

The Kompt de Yoyo says: I had a flute once, it would fire poison darts when I played the funeral march. Ahh, those were the days.

Diana laughs, hiding her chuckle behind the back of her hand as she does. “I suppose it would be rude to ask you to play something for me?”

Diana looks a bit afraid of the Kompt’s flute.

Andrew d’Ackerley pauses a moment, then walks over to sit down at the piano. “I can certainly try. If nothing else, our good Kompt here gets a laugh.”

A sad yet beautiful melody comes from the piano as Andrew d’Ackerley skilfully moves his fingers across the keys.

Andrew d’Ackerley asks: … Did you just have this thing retuned, old boy?

Diana listens appreciatively to the beautiful melody. “You’re really good.”

Andrew d’Ackerley shakes his head lightly. “You’re a grateful audience, miss. Most connoisseurs are not quite so kind.”

Diana smiles. “Well, I really did like it.” She sighs and folds her hands in her lap. “What were you telling me earlier about wolves? A tradition?” She stops. “I am sorry if it is private of course.”

Andrew d’Ackerley chuckles and half-turns on the bench to face her. “Not at all. It’s just a family tradition. A holding pen, a nice, comfortable one, for a wolf in every basement of every house my family resides in.”

Andrew d’Ackerley says: Books, brandy, fire, nice basket.

Diana wrinkles her forehead trying to understand. “Either you like to keep wolves as pets or – I’m sorry. You don’t seem like a wer- I – uh, hm. Hm. Nice weather we’re having.”

Andrew d’Ackerley laughs softly and shakes his head. “I am not a werewolf. I do have some distant ancestors who were, though.”

Diana chuckles and looks slightly relieved that you didn’t take offence. She crosses one leg over the other and smooths her rather ordinary wool skirt down. “I think it’s always so difficult to assume things about people, sometimes you’re so wrong as to really hurt someone or upset them.”

Diana says with a Lancrastian accent: And that would be awful in my opinion.

You politely say: That is a wise policy. I try to be objective myself, but I do find it difficult to share a space with… some types. The undead make my hackles rise, even if there hasn’t been anyone in the family with hackles for at least two hundred years.

Diana nods looking suddenly tired. “I feel the same way about hunters. Especially the ones who hunt for sport. And as for anybody who sets traps or snares, I’d gladly trap or snare them in their own traps.”

Andrew d’Ackerley taps a long finger against his lips. “Ah. Yes. Some of my peers fancy the fox hunt. I always thought it quite barbaric myself.”

Diana rolls her eyes. “Yes it’s so noble I suppose to chase a terrified frightened wounded animal with packs of dogs until it’s too tired to run and then have it torn apart limb from limb.”

Andrew d’Ackerley politely says: I am not a huntsman myself. Never quite fancied the physical sports all that much.

Diana says with a Lancrastian accent: For that I am glad then, because I couldn’t stand to be around one who did.

The Kompt de Yoyo smiles indolently.

Andrew d’Ackerley softly says: I assure you, miss, the most savage thing that I give chase to, is the sugar bowl.

Diana giggles, unable to stop herself from giggling this time. “Does it put up much of a fight?”

Andrew d’Ackerley ominously says: Sometimes, the cream pitcher helps it.

Diana laughs and shakes her head. “Oh my.”

Andrew d’Ackerley politely says to Diana: I imagine that the hunters of the Ramtops do not agree with you much, though.

Diana says to Andrew with a Lancrastian accent: I think you could say I am disliked. I am a member of the Hunters in the Ramtops. But there’s a misconception about us. People think we organise hunts. It’s far from the truth. We love animals. In fact I am an animal doctor. I don’t hunt at all but colleagues do, but only for food.

Diana says with a Lancrastian accent: Never for sport.

Andrew d’Ackerley quietly says: Aye, I know that vermine fur is very popular here.

Diana sighs. “I’m sure it is.”

Diana gets a rabbit fur coat from a pocket in a large backpack.

Diana offers to show the rabbit fur coat to you.

This rabbit fur coat will keep you warm and, although it is not as expensive as mink or vermine, would look good on anyone.

The rabbit fur coat has two side pockets.

It is in excellent condition.

Diana says with a Lancrastian accent: I made that, but only from the fur of rabbits who died from natural causes.

Diana puts the rabbit fur coat in a pocket in the large backpack.

Andrew d’Ackerley asks: I’ve never much cared for furs myself. There is something tacky about wearing the pelt of an animal just like that, don’t you think?

Diana nods. “I do yes. I brought that for Gladys. I always tell people that animal fur only looks nice on one thing: the animal itself.”

Andrew d’Ackerley amusedly says: The selfish little bastards who refuse to let go of their fur. I heard vermines called that, once.

Diana shakes her head. “It’s disgusting, and you know they fight so hard to live. People are evil, the human race is evil.”

Diana pauses. “Maybe I’m getting carried away again.”

Diana apologetically says with a Lancrastian accent: I do that sometimes.

Andrew d’Ackerley tilts his head slightly. “I will agree with you when a great many people are concerned, though.”

Diana nods, looking at you. “Then I am glad you see it from my point of view, at least a little bit.”

Andrew d’Ackerley says to Diana: I am a politician, young miss. I see the worst of mankind regularly. That’s why I retired from politics, as a matter of fact.

Andrew d’Ackerley politely says: Those who dislike vampires have yet to meet lawyers.

Diana looks a little surprised to be called ‘young miss’ before remembering that she does look a fair bit younger than her 25 years. She raises an eyebrow. “Oh yes. I have no head for politics myself. Or laywers.”

Diana simply says with a Lancrastian accent: Away from humans is the best place for me to be, in the woods.

Diana says with a Lancrastian accent: Winters are torture, because I have to live in the town.

Andrew d’Ackerley politely says: Ah, yes. Gets too cold out there, does it? I can only imagine. My health is not quite up for braving Ramtops winters.

Diana looks at the gentleman who does look a bit on the frail side. “Yes. I mean, it’s cold for us, local Lancrastians, so that means it’s really cold. I am always surprised when people visit us in the summer from other places and complain of the cold.”

Andrew d’Ackerley chuckles and nods. “Of course this city’s summer climate is nothing to rejoice about, either. Very hot and soggy. Very smelly, too.”

Diana feelingly says with a Lancrastian accent: Yes, it is rather smelly already and it’s only just come spring.

Andrew d’Ackerley politely says to Diana: I fear that our ancestors thought that sewers were quite the waste of perfectly good limestone when there is a river running through the city, aye.

Diana winces. “Uh. Yes.”

Andrew d’Ackerley smiles and runs his fingers along the piano keys absentmindedly, creating a little scale. “The city must be such a shock to foreigners. All those… non-humans we have, too.”

Diana turns around briefly to look at the boards on the wall before turning back to you. She smiles. “Funnily enough that’s not too shocking for me anyway, as we have dwarves and trolls a-plenty in the Ramtops. Many vampires also pass through the Ramtops, presumably on their way here. We don’t meet them often but we hear stories of people losing livestock or even some people who accidentally run into them. So far there have been no accidents or attacks. I guess vampires who come here are the reformed ones.”

Andrew d’Ackerley sofly says: … Most are, yes. I would never take anything for granted until I saw a black ribbon, though.

Diana nods. “They look so human for the most part don’t they? It’s what fools people I guess. I don’t have anything against them but I don’t really want to meet one in the woods.”

Andrew d’Ackerley smiles slightly. “You are very tolerant, miss. Personally, I prefer to keep my distance to the undead and the lycanthropes. The goblins fascinate me in a fashion, but I never quite did find much to talk to trolls about.”

Diana smiles. “Trolls are much cleverer back home. It’s colder there. They’re smart you know. Most of them are very family-oriented. They’re hard workers too.”

Andrew d’Ackerley nods goodnaturedly. “This much I know. Did you know that Ankh-Morpork has the largest populations of trolls and dwarfs anywhere on the Disc?”

Diana laughs and shakes her head. “Nanny Ogg – she’s the one whose son rents a room to me in the winter – told me about that and I couldn’t believe it. I don’t know why they come here but then again, I suppose I understand it. This is a city that they can be themselves in.”

Andrew d’Ackerley nods. “Yes. That’s what the vampires say too. Well, the one my wife employs does, anyway. My lawyer mostly talks about old debts and contracts.”

Diana nods again, listening intently and laughs. “Seems normal for a lawyer.” She considers thoughtfully. “It’s funny but this city is somewhere I could never be myself in, or even happy. Everybody is different.”

Andrew d’Ackerley amusedly says: My lawyer is a vampire. Most of the successful ones are.

Diana quietly says with a Lancrastian accent: Gracious goodness me.

Andrew d’Ackerley politely says to Diana: That’s Ankh-Morpork for you. Everyone can find a place of their own. It is… very strange, sometimes.

Diana says to you with a Lancrastian accent: Strange, but also a bit magical, I think.

Andrew d’Ackerley nods with a small smile. “I am… not entirely in agreement with this open door policy, but I will agree that on the whole, we’re probably better off for it.”

Andrew d’Ackerley taps his lip again. “In theory, at least. In practicality, I find that it is curious to see the city slowly become so… mixed that humans eventually are becoming a minority.”

Diana laughs. “If everything comes in waves then perhaps it is time for us to become a minority.”

Diana says with a Lancrastian accent: We have dominated the world for so long.

Andrew d’Ackerley chuckles softly. “Well, that is hard to argue with. Every dog his day, and all, surely every dog must have his night as well.”

Diana chuckles back at you. She looks up as a student knocks on the door and informs her that her aunt is in her office now and will see her. She gets to her feet. “It was nice to meet you and I did enjoy our little chat. Thank you for being so kind. It was nice to see a friendly face and have a friendly conversation.” She smiles.

Andrew d’Ackerley politely says to Diana: Welcome, once again, to Ankh-Morpork. Do have a nice day.

Diana turns to leave before looking back at you. “I’m so sorry. I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Diana Smithson.”

Andrew d’Ackerley stands and offers a small, courtly bow. “Andrew d’Ackerley at your service, miss.”

Diana curtseys gracefully and laughs. “Pleased to meet you even if we do appear to have done things back to front.” She smiles and turns to leave.

Andrew d’Ackerley politely says: Good day.

About Andrew d'Ackerley

Earl of Briarwyld, Skund; Knight of Ankh-Morpork; Doctor of Languages at the Assassins’ Guild; Master of Dance and Deportment at the Assassins’ Guild; Senior Lecturer in Languages at the Assassins’ Guild, House Master of Cobra House, the Assassins’ Guild.
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