The first thing that began to bother Phoebe as she settled into the first class of the day was the anxious look some of the students were giving the door. All right, everyone was looking across occasionally, wondering who the teacher would be (they were back in Unseen U, so it could be Rincewind – or Ponder), but a few of them – Phoebe noticed Kai, Yukimona and Maligna Chiroptera, all three of them vampires – looked particularly concerned, as if they could see something the others couldn't. Probably they can smell garlic or something, she mused.
The second thing, and this really got to her, was the empty seats. They were doing her head in. She counted six, which made one for each of the four deaths so far – Esme, Becky, Kisheara and Tindomiel – and, oh, the last one was probably where Penny's absent friend Vemi would have sat.
That's only five, a treacherous corner of her mind told her. What about the sixth?
She decided she must have miscounted. Let's see, one, two, three and four... five.
And the one by the window?
No, she'd done that one. Try again, though, starting there. One, two and three, four, five.
This time you missed the one in the front row, the little voice told her, but she firmly ignored it. There were no mysteries here.
The third worry was that they were back in Unseen University, and dorm-room rumour said that Ponder Stibbons had been working on anti-Lindyellwen measures. Phoebe had a horrible feeling they weren't going to work – and that she would have to deal with the fallout.
The door creaked open (a strong, proper creak its mother could be proud of) and a thin, nervous-looking wizard stepped in. There were sighs of disappointment from the Ponder-lusters – it wasn't him – and a squeal from Lindyellwen.
"Rinsewind!" she exclaimed, and the first mini-Luggage Phoebe had met popped into existence – right above the girl next to her.
"Ow," Hawkelf grumbled as the bag bounced off her head. "Watch it, will you?"
"Sorry, Hawky," Lindyellwen said (which was clearly accepted by the universe as a nickname – good thing too, Phoebe didn't want to find out what a mini-Fangirl looked like), "but look! It's Rinsewind!" The mini-Luggage in question began to roam around the floor, snuffling at people's feet.
The arriving wizard rubbed his nose. "Um, that young Assistant Librarian?" he asked. "No, I'm afraid not. I am, in fact, the Bursar."
"Burger!" Lindyellwen exclaimed (and Hawkelf ducked – a moment too late – and declared that she was going to run off and live in the ceiling if this went on). "You're one of my favourites too!"
"Um, quite," the Bursar said, throwing a nervous glance of his own at the door. "Is, um, everyone seated?"
A chorus of 'Yes, Bursar' spread across the room (with enough 'Burger's thrown in to set the mini-Luggage spinning). Phoebe frowned – she didn't remember the Bursar being blind, just insane. And none of the vampires had replied.
"Um. Good. Now, today you're going to be learning about Mathematics and its applicability to magic. Did you know that the very first wizard on, um, the Disc could only count up to..."
The Bursar droned on, and Phoebe started to tune him out. The rest of the girls were growing restless, too (with the exception of Vee, who was watching the wizard with an expression approaching rapture – weird, Phoebe had thought she was a Ponder-luster). One girl, Raen, had started carving her name in the lid of her desk; she was up to about a dozen alphabets so far. Several others (Kaitlyn, Sirius Skylight, Sliver, and Yukimona) seemed to be engaged in some sort of scheming, which worried Phoebe more for the deaths she might have to deal with than anything else. Liliac had her bit of technology out again and was pointing it at each student in turn, and the Bursar was still talking.
"... consider the potential value of there being a fairy in my shoe that we..."
Phoebe looked up sharply. Okay, that wasn't quite normal.
"... have to be aware that Mr. Socko has paid me a visit, and he says flying causes cavities, but Millie says..."
Phoebe became aware of three more things. First, the Bursar's eyes were rolling in opposite directions. Second, he was levitating about a foot off the floor. And third, Lindyellwen had started talking again.
"... because he doesn't take his dried fog pills," she said, and a small blue glass bottle bounced off Hawkelf's shoulder and scuttled away.
"You really know a lot about him," Lucy2 said admiringly from the seat on her other side. "I just know about my Ponder..." She sighed dreamily.
"Oh, I know about him too," Lindyellwen said confidently. "And I know about Mustard Ridicully and the Deem and the Lecturer in Decent Rooms and the Seedier Waggler and the Chair of Desperately Studly and the Library Nun and Hexxx... I know lots about Unclean University."
There was a moment – just a moment – when the universe seemed to hold its breath. Then, in a shower of angry pieces of baggage (including, significantly, a heavy stone pot called Unclean University) it exhaled – right onto Hawkelf's head. Phoebe reached for her scythe.
As her hair unwound, she glanced around again at the empty chairs. There were six, clear as daylight. And dancing in front of the Bursar – who had now begun to sing, in a voice that cracked with every other word – was a girl with urple hair, colour-changing eyes, and an outfit that would have offended every fashion designer between there and Lothlórien. She was juggling matches – giant ones – and as Phoebe stood, she threw one directly at the Bursar's head.
Disclaimer: All Discworld canon characters and locations are the creations of Sir Terry Pratchett. The Official Fanfiction University concept is the creation of Miss Cam. Phoebe is based on an application to OFUDisc by Fawkes Phoenix. All other students are based on applications to OFUDisc. All details of (and mistakes in) plot, narrative and dialogue are mine. Thanks to the Irish Samurai for betaing.
Author's Note: I've never been quite sure whether Lindyellwen is really as dumb as she sounds. I mean, she can't be... right?
I like to imagine that the first wizard on the Disc could only count up to one. "How many wizards are there in the world? One! And that's me. So you must be an imposter..."