It was Bledlow McAbre's last day on the job, Forty Five Years Boy and Man................
McAbre stood in front of the full length mirror in His, The Head Bledlow's Bedroom, tiding the fluff and invisible specks of Dust from the brim of his Bowler Hat, hat on Head squared with precision, Tie knotted in the traditional fashion ,Heavy wet weather rain coat buttoned as per regulations, creases in His trousers so sharp you could shave with them and finally the Brown Leather Shoes so highly polished you could used them as mirrors, to shave in if it took your fancy.
Well He reminisced to Himself time to hand over the Keys for the final time, Mr. McGee will have that job to do tomorrow Morning, good man McGee a traditionalist and a Man to be trusted with the Security and up keep of The one and Only Unseen University.
Mrs. Whitlow looks after the Gentleman at UU but it is the job of the Bledlow's to look after the institution...........
and to be honest He was ready to give up the post.
Only last Week He had nearly missed The Handing Over Of The Keys Ceremony.............
He had fallen asleep in front of the Fireplace in His room. If the Runner, now what was His name........ oh yes Simpkins had not roused Him because He had not meet the young lad at the foot of the old Wizardry Tower it would not have happened on time, and that ,He told Himself was not on.
The previous Bledlow's had performed the ceremony as far back as the records show and He was not going to be the First to miss it out because He could no longer be up and about a 2 AM, no it is time to move aside for a new man.
Funny how I can not remember to be ready for the Keys but I can quite clearly remember my first days at the Unseen University thought Mr. McAbre ..............
It all started when I was about fifteen Years old, and I was sent to Ankh-Morpork by my parents who had seen old Granny Weatherwax about my .............problem.
She said it was unusual from a lad to be able to predict using Tea Leaves, this was normally a Female trait... but not unknown in some cases. That I may have a streak of Magical ability on my bones.
"Send Him to the Unseen University, they may be able to make a Wizard out of the lad........ I can't teach Him as it is the wrong type of Magic that I teach for Him anyway, if the child was a Girl then maybe I could have done something for you. No it's the UU for you my lad if you are up to it?" said Granny Weatherwax.
And so my parents managed to scrape together enough cash I was sent to the UU at Ankh Morpork.......................
......................THE ARRIVAL FIRST DAY.........................
I arrived on the Mail coach, the city was a big surprise to me as I had never seen any thing like it! The first impression I have was of the noise and the smell, now I was raised on a farm and had smelled some god awful things in my time but I was unprepared for the nasal assault was I stepped off the coach. And the noise, the sound of barrow men and crates of Animals Hooting and Screeching was almost overwhelming...
"Hello there are you Leonard McAbre?" inquired a lad no older then me.
"Who is asking?" I replied.
"Sorry, my name is Mustrum, Mustrum Ridcully if you must know. We, along with the rest of the new lads back at UU are to be tested Later. Today and I was instructed to meet you by the UU School Master. That is if you are Leonard McAbre........?" said the boy with an inquiring look.
"Yes sorry that's Me, I was told to take a care in the City...... lots of criminals and tricksters to be careful about" I responded.
"You need not worry about them, all the guilds know what to expect if a member of the Unseen University get done over, even apprentice's like us are under the Wizards protection. Say what you will but even though the Masters will fight each other they will all band together if an outsider causes trouble!" said Mustrum.
"Ok then lets go" He said, and with that turned and started trotting off down the Street, I picked up my small bag and ran after Him.
"Slow down will you" I shouted.
"What's up, can't keep up eh?" He said grinning ........ and then picked up the pace.
"All right, if that the way it is then..... here I come!" and I sprinted past Him.
I did not get to far though, as I had no idea in which direction I should go. I could see the Tower at the UU, well you can see it from just about an point in Ankh Morpork, it is impossible to miss, but the alleyways twist and turn and come to blind ends.........
"Not a bad runner are you" He said, "I can see you like to keep in trim like me, a lot of the other lads in the dorm are well out of shape, do you run much?" He inquired.
"No not really, but I have been working the Farm back Home and it is hard physical work, and the llamas can put on a turn of speed when they don't want to be Milked!" I replied laughing.
"Here we are, Old UU" said Mustrum.
And there standing before Me the Arched Gateway to the rest of My Life.....................
...................................... NIGHT BEFORE THE TEST ......................................
I hardly had time to unpack My small bag when one of the senior students opened the door to the dorm and informed us that tomorrow we would all undergo the first test to see if we were suitable for a life as Wizards, we were go to the dining hall and get a good meal and then off to our bunks for an early Night, the test will begin at first light.
There were Twenty of us in this batch of supplicants, some local lads and even one Klatchian Boy. After a fine meal of Slumpy pudding and figgins we retire to the dorm, the atmosphere was strange in that room,for tomorrow we all knew that we would be competing with each other for a few places at the UU. And I could here someone crying in the dark...........................
"Is that you Mustrum?" I whispered.
"Oh sorry I woke you Leonard" said Mustrum.
"Are you all right, thought I could hear your crying?" I said.
"It's ok, I had some bad news from Home a few days ago...... I lost my Sister in an avalanche" He said.
"Gods that is terrible, why don't you ask to go Home for the Funeral, they surly would let you try again next Year" I asked.
"No I will be to old by then, they will not take in anyone over the age of Fifteen this is my only chance" said Mustrum.
"Sorry to hear that, good luck tomorrow hope we both make it through the first part" I said.
"Should not be a problem for us my Friend,on the quite I have heard that the first test is a physical one and by looking at the rest of the supplicants I think we have got no problems..........Ha Ha" said Mustrum.
"That is cool then, see you in the morning Friend........ good Night Mustrum" I said.
"Good Night Leonard" said Mustrum.
"Good Night John Boy" said some wag from the darkness............
"SHUT UP THE LOT OF YOU,GET SOME SLEEP. YOU WILL BE NEEDING IT.........." shouted a voice from the door, a shadow wearing a pointy Hat.
The day of the test, we were woken just before dawn and lead to the gymnasium. Arranged on hooks were light Yellow garments each one with a number on the back. My number was Eight, which with hind sight should have been a warning to me, but at the time I had no idea of the occult significance of this number.
"Well here we go Gentlemen, every one to be out side by the main gate in five minuets...... do not be late...." said a Man in a Grey suit and Bowler Hat.
And now we are out side all lined up and waiting for our first, and for some Final test as Apprentice Wizards.......
"Gentleman pay attention please, thank you......... right this is your first task. You are to make your way to the Guard House at the patricians Palace, if you take a look on the inside sleeve of your uniform you will find instructions as to the route to take." said Bower hat.
On the sleeve was a simplified map of the city and a list of streets and points of interest. First on the list was The Cham,then The Plaza of Broken Moons, The Maul and then The Turn wise Broadway and finally the Guard House at the Patricians Palace.
"Five of you will be going Home after this test, so do your best. At the Guard House you will be given a flag which you will return here as proof of completion of this task, any questions............ no, good. Off you go then..........." said the Man as He pushed open the Main Gate.
And so off we went, at a fast trot so to preserve our strength for the sprint back both Me, Mustrum and the Klatchian Boy opened out an easy gap to the rest of the trainees....
"What is your name chap?" Mustrum asked the Klatchian.
"Ahmed" replied the lad.
"Ahmed your first name or last?" inquired Mustrum.
"Just Ahmed until I become of age, I will the complete a task or feat and I will earn a second name that people will Honour, that is the way of my Tribe...........I am A dreg.." the lad responded.
"Ahmed the Wizard, sounds good" said Ridcully.
"Maybe, who knows what Fate has in store for me....... if I fail here today I will try to enrol at the assassin Guild, so it could be Ahmed The Assassin..... " He replied.
We ran on three abreast, the rest were falling further behind so we eased up a little.
"We are going to beat the rest by a massive margin, easy" I said.
"Yes I run camels from the wet lands across the sands to the Market at Jebra for my Uncle, this will not tax my strengths" said Ahmed.
We ran on in silence, and after Twenty Minuets the Guard House at the Palace hove into view.
Waiting at the door was a large Guard in Shiny Armour holding short red flags, as we approached the Man held them out for us to pluck from His hands.
"Well done lads, you Three are the first here....... keep it up and good luck!" He shouted as we departed, flags in hand.
Shortly after we meet some of the others running the other way, as we passed one of them ripped the flag from Ahmed hand and threw it onto the roof of a passing wagon.
"Darn it, quick lets get after the Wagon" I said to the others.
Weaving in and out of traffic we soon caught up with it "Please sir, can you throw down the flag lodged on the roof of you wagon" shouted Ridcully.
"Be off with...... oh sorry there Young Sirs, did not see you are trainee Wizards. Here it is, I would give you a lift back to the UU but I have Teeth to collect and I am going the other way at the moment" replied the stout driver.
"That is fine, we do not want to be caught cheating on our first Test! Thank you." said Ahmed.
So off we went, but now we had departed from the list on the sleeves,we were lost.
"I can see the tower, if we head that way we can find our way back no problem" I said.
We headed in that direction..........
................................ Mustrum Falls................................
On the way back we talked about our home lands, our hopes and ambitions.
"Who was the lad who snatched my flag?" asked Ahmed.
"That was Ronny Rust" Responded Mustrum "He is a Son of one of the Noble Families of Ankh, very Vain chap too. And the other lad who was running with Him was a hanger on call Boggis...... creepy little bigger. I think he has been nicking stuff from the lockers in the Dorm.........every time He is alone in there someone losses something"
We continued on.................
Ahead now was recognized The Plaza of Broken Moons "Not far to go now" I said.
"Look Look......... there are the others" I shouted as I spotted the Group ahead of us "Come on we got to run NOW or we will be last"
With that we raced ahead trying to make up lost ground, as we started into the crowd of lads there was a cry from close behind. I glanced back in time to see Rust and Boggis sandwich Mustrum between them, Boggis get Him a blow well below the belt that would have made the Marques's of FanTailer Blush. Mustrum Doubled up and fell to the ground.
I stopped to see if I could help "Go on, Go on...Ahmed...Leonard... I can hardly move" He gasped "Beat the Bastard for Me, don't let HIM win"
Rage welled up in side us, the pain and tiredness of the run forgotten. Our feet pounded on the cobbles as we slashed through the ranks of the gaping, puffing boys.
Ahead Rust and Boggis crossed the Finnish line, another thin lad was third and me and Ahmed arrived in Forth and Fifth.
"You cheating scum Rust, and you too Boggis we saw what you did. You will not get away with this you Pratt" I shouted in between gasps.
"Prove it" said the smiling face of Rust.
The man with the Bower Hat called to us "You lads there, yes you all five of you to stand in the corner by the Statue of the founder, go on quick about it."
"You will get yours now Rust......." I said.
"Quite in the ranks there" said the Man.
We waited...........everyone eventually arrived in the Square puffing and gasping, purple faces covered in sweet.
Mustrum came in dead last, crabbing along in agony.
"Right, you lads, yes you lazy lot that just arrived....... off to the Bathroom and freshen up. One hour, and Breakfast is served, be there" Bowler Hat Man said.
With that He turned to us "Sorry Gent's, I have to inform you that you have failed. This test was introduced many Years ago to filter out err........ the keener types. We take in the average to dull types as they are not as keen to cause problems at the top.Sorry.When the others have cleaned up and the baths are free you can used them, but you must collect your belongings as soon as possible from the dorm. When you are ready please report to the Arch Chancellors room and we can see if we can find you places at one of the Guilds. Sorry............."
With that Rust exploded "Do you think I NEED YOUR HELP IN FINDING A POSITION AT A GUILD? DO YOU?" and with more control "My Father will hear of this, you have not seen the last of me, come Boggis we are leaving"
And with that Rust stormed out of the Gateway with Boggis trailing behind Him like a Dog.
"And you three lads, are you going to storm off to?" The man said.
"No sir" I said after looking at the despondent faces of Ahmed and the thin lad.
We made our way back to the empty dorm, the sound of cutlery cheery voices echoing down the hall from the Dining Hall.
We collected our stuff and then were lead to the Room of the Arch Chancellors......
"Well what have we here, lets see............ Leonard McAbre........ Ahmed, just Ahmed is it, yes ok...... and oh another Leonard, Leonard de Quirm........... em.........ok........... Mr. Quirm how do you feel about research, I hear the Alchemists have a position open. IF you are interested I can have a word in their ear. Yes......... Good. Now Ahmed I believe that the word Assassin is a Klatchian and that sort of work is well paid, the Assassin's Guild have one of the best schools too. Are you interested? Yes Good... and finally Mr.McAbre we have an opening within the Bledlow department here at UU. Normally we recruit from ex Watch or the regiments, but we need a runner. And you can run well and you are a Team Player too...don't think we missed what happened out there. We were watching all of you........ so what do you say........"
And that's how my life as a Bledlow began, there are other stories to be told. But that is for another time and place, now I need to make a move or I WILL miss the ceremony!
"Simpkins, come on lad lets go.......you know lad one day all this can be yours..............."