Each Thursday, our copy of ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.
Today’s tour topic is… Guild of Assassins (and Assassins in general).
Assassins, Guild of… – The second most frequent guild after the Thieves Guild. Indeed, it is possible that these are the only two, and that in Fantasyland crime is the sole organized activity. They are said to be very good at their job, which is of course killing people for money, and to proceed on all occasions with strict regard for laws and protocol.
Harder to write than I thought it would be, I struggled to come up with examples from books I have actually read. Assassins are crazy popular in fantasy for sure, yet apparently I have skipped most the stories they are featured in. As such, a short list today, and I basically had to allow any assassin training in order to get even that. Behold, today’s examples!
The Ankh-Morpork Assassin’s Guild – Discworld by Terry Pratchett Perhaps the most structured of all the examples, here is the ultimate academy for gentlemen. Anyone can hire a common thug, but for a more personalized touch one must go this prestigious institution. By hiring a guild assassin a person knows they will get it done with class. For the right fee they may even be willing to send someone after those who don’t technically exist. In fact at current times there are only a couple of assignments they are not willing to take; not because they are proving too hard to get, no sir. But because removing them wouldn’t just change the current game, it would break the board.
But this isn’t just a place to ‘go shopping.’ This grand institution also acts as a school for the true gentlemen’s calling. Just don’t upset the teachers. One, they are all trained in the school you are hoping to get through. And two, they may just make you try to get within range of Samuel Vimes. Also present is the second largest library around, a hall of portraits (which funnily enough don’t have portraits of people who graduated from the school), and a museum full of all kinds of interesting things (provided, of course, you are interested in what they have to show.
Wetboys– Night Angel by Brent Weeks Go ahead if you have not read Week’s trilogy and start laughing now. Yes, ‘Wetboys’ is the term for the most feared professional killers of the land in the Night Angel trilogy. There are regular old assassins around, don’t worry. But they are often just thugs who kill people for money. As the tale explains, assassins have targets that they aim for. Often then get them but not always.
But Wetboys are something different. They are professional killers who also have magic, and if they take an assignment that target’s already dead.
I will admit, that is about all I remember. I only read the first book, and it involved a young street rat following the most feared assassin and asking to be trained. Because he had the talent there was, I dunno, a training montage? Or something. Anyway, WETBOYS!
Everyone – Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish As I recall every single person in this book was an assassin. The entire city ran on the industry provided by hired contracts, and thrown knifes always either hit an eye or the jugular. There were assassins of breathtaking beauty, those fighting for a religious cause, and just plain old nasties. Training comes early in this land o’ GRIMDARK. We see a man judge his son worthy when said kid kills his older brother at eight years of age.
So there you go, if you are in to that sort of thing, Dalglish has you covered.
Fitz –Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb – I count it because it is right there in the title. Fitz learns to be an assassin. Someone had to teach him so it counts. But it really shouldn’t because Hobb is way too subtle with this. How does one know how to hire Fitz? Why is he not shown as a super ninja assassin with an air of perfection? Where is the giant pile of bodies that an assassin’s tale should have piled up? Hobb was not thinking of my weekly feature when she wrote this one. (Sarcasm filter).
Whew, two weeks down. Let’s keep it going. Next week’s tour stop will be.. City of Wizards.
And be sure to check out others Traveling with the Tough Guide.