"Do you know," said Phoebe as they walked out of Ankh and into the Ramtops, "I think that's the first lesson we've actually finished."
"Oh, surely not," Cazzie disagreed. "We finished woodwork, right?"
"If you call that 'finished'," Phoebe retorted. "Did anyone do the actual work?"
"We did," chimed in Liliac, "didn't we, Pen- oh." Penny was deep in conversation with Iplis, and didn't even seem to notice Liliac's question. "Well, anyway," the girl with multicoloured hair went on, "we totally finished our idol – I mean, project."
"And then there was Pretty Butterfly's class," Cazzie pointed out. "Remember, she – oh, that's right, you were busy."
"Okay," Phoebe said, giving in, "I guess what I mean is, that's the first class I've finished."
"No argument there," Liliac agreed. "Shiftless layabout, that's you."
"Um," said a new voice, and the girls noticed Kaitlyn nervously tap Iplis on the shoulder. "Sorry to bother you, ma'am..."
"You don't need to be so skittish," Iplis said with a smile (carefully calibrated not to show her fangs). "I don't bite, if you can believe that."
"It's not you I'm worried about," Kaitlyn muttered, "it's Yuk-" She stopped abruptly, glanced quickly over her shoulder at where the rest of the vampires were walking as a single swarm, and continued with, "anyway, could we borrow your, um, Penny for a few minutes?"
"She's not my anything," Iplis said mildly, with an emphatic, unspoken 'yet'. Penny glanced at her, then nodded slightly.
"What do you need, Kaitlyn?" she asked, following the black-haired girl away – away, in fact, to where Raen and Nenya were talking in quiet tones.
From where she stood, Phoebe could only hear snatches of their conversation. 'Far too close together' came from Nenya, and 'have you noticed we're' from Raen – and then, after Penny had arrived and received a whispered explanation, "I know! I've been keeping a list-" before she was hushed.
The mountains rose around Class Two, and before too long they came to a castle that could best be described as 'rickety and ramshackle'. Igor vanished into the background, leaving the girls in the company of the rather uncomfortable-looking gate guard.
"Greetings, ladies and... ladies," he said, both hands twitching towards salutes before he realised that, for once, he wasn't out-ranked. "Their majesties await you in the courtyard."
"Majesties?" repeated Kisheara from the vampire contingent. "Ve get to meet royalty?"
"Ooh! I know this one!" called Lindyellwen. "We're in Banker, right?" She ignored the winces from those around her – and the flinch from Hawkelf's ghost – as what seemed to be a cottage-shaped teapot appeared at her feet. "That means we must be here to see, you know... Verence."
Phoebe blinked. Well, that was odd, she mused as they passed through the gate. She hadn't thought Lindyellwen had a correctly-spelled bone in her body.
A soft gasp rippled through Class Two as they saw the vermine-robed figure waiting diffidently ahead of them – and, perhaps more importantly, the steel-clad, spike-coated visage behind his right shoulder.
"Hello, um, I mean, greetings," the King of Lancre said. "I understand you're here to learn about, um, romance?"
Grins started to form on the faces of several of the girls – Phoebe was sure she saw Lindyellwen actually give a little jump of joy – and then the armoured figure took a clanking step forward and raised its visor.
"Let's lay down some ground rules," said Magrat Garlick. "This is my husband; you will not come near him. We have been informed of what you are, and believe me, here in Lancre we know all about creatures from other dimensions." She smiled, almost cheerfully. "I understand there are even some genuine elves among you. I will draw your attention to the large axe I am holding, and yes, I do know how to use it."
A murmur went through the group, and Phoebe shared their alarm – though she thought Liliac's reaction a bit much. The other girl suddenly looked abjectly terrified, and darted over to Lindyellwen's side. Phoebe only heard snatches of the conversation: 'to be careful' from Liliac, and 'can't die' from Lindyellwen, to which Liliac loudly retorted, "No, but you can still be hideously maimed!"
Lindyellwen just laughed. Phoebe didn't think this was going to go well.
It took about ten seconds for her prediction to become reality. Verence coughed and said, "Right. The Art of Romance is not something in which I claim to be an expert, but my experience has-"
"-made you perfect for me!" Lindyellwen exclaimed, launching herself forward. Liliac cried out in horror as Magrat swung the axe in a gleaming arc which ended with the student flat on the ground, clutching her arm. "Ow?" she gasped. "What? Ow?"
"Perhaps I didn't make myself clear," Magrat said through gritted teeth, raising the axe over her head. "Leave. My husband. Alone!"
"Stop!" Liliac bellowed, charging forward as the axe began to fall and grabbing the handle. "I can't allow this to continue."
"Can't allow?" Magrat repeated in disbelief. "And who are you, exactly?"
Liliac grinned at her over the axe, her teeth showing white. "The name's Liliac," she said, "Head of Assignments and Acting Director of the Interdimensional Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Elves. And you, Your Majesty – in fact this whole university – are in violation of Ispace Rule One."
As Magrat and Class Two stared in bewilderment, she released the axe and lifted a silver machine from her belt. "Aranel?" she said, pressing a large blue button. "Case Thranduil. Execute."
She lowered the device with a smug expression, and Magrat shook herself slightly. "I don't know what you think you're doing," she said, "but-"
There was a sound that was more of an absence, like the ending of a thousand-year rain shower. As the crowd watched in bewildered horror, the air at the centre of the courtyard began to pinch in upon itself, warping their view of the far wall. The light coming through the pinch reddened as the effect increased, until at last a crimson halo surrounded a point so black it hurt to look at.
"Twist stabilised," Liliac said, breaking the absolute silence. "Spin her up."
The pinch pulsed with black light, once, twice, three times, and then the dark centre sprang suddenly outwards to form a ring, a frame for the blue circle that blazed at the heart of the pinch.
Something came through. One moment the watchers were staring in awe, the next a furry shape leapt out of the blue and landed on the flagstones. Phoebe gaped. Was that a platypus?
"Platy," said Liliac, "where are the others?"
"It's good to see you, too, boss," the platypus growled through its beak. Liliac snorted.
"Sorry. Hi, how are you?"
"They're asleep," the platypus supplied. "It's like half eleven back home, Liliac. You're just lucky the Noble Platypus has foregone her rest in favour of getting you out of trouble."
"I'm not the one in trouble," Liliac said firmly. "We have five elves here."
"One," Phoebe muttered, and her friend glanced over at her.
"Phoebe," she said, "sorry to spring this on you, but can you get Lindyellwen? I don't think she's coping too well."
That, Phoebe decided, was an understatement. The fangirl in question was curled up on the floor around her missing hand, still whimpering 'Ow?' in a tone of disbelief. Phoebe knelt next to her and tried in vain to get her to move, vaguely aware of Liliac's continuing instructions.
"Tisea, Mercuria, Phoenix Flight, with me. Let's move, ladies, the bridge won't stay open forever."
"No one is going anywhere," said a steely voice, and Magrat stepped in front of the blue flaw in reality, her axe raised. "This is my kingdom, and-"
"These claws are artificial, you know," said a cheerful voice from her leg, and she looked down to see Platy latched carefully on. "Only male platypuses actually grow venomous claws, so I had to have some made." She grinned up at the Queen of Lancre. "They're adamantium-tipped and coated with curare, so I wouldn't count on that armour protecting you."
"What are-?" Magrat gasped, and Platy chuckled.
"Oh, we know you, Magrat Elfbane. If it wasn't for the Nearest-And-Dearest exception to Rule One, you'd already be dead for all the pain you've caused to elvenkind. Now shut up before I forget about that exception."
"Play nice, Platy," Liliac said, ushering the three elves towards the bridge. "We don't want to cause more ripples than we have to. Now, I-"
She stopped dead, as if walking into an invisible wall. A frown formed on her face, and she reached out to feel ahead of her. "That's odd, I-"
"You didn't really think you could just walk out, did you?" said a soft voice, and Class Two turned to see the Administrator standing by the gate. "We do have rules at this university, you know – and one of them is that you stay on campus at all times."
Liliac glared at him. "What, you're saying you planned for Einstein-Rosen bridges?"
The Administrator shrugged. "We plan for everything," he said mildly. "Please tell your colleague to release the canon character. Now."
"Hey," Platy spoke up, "aren't you-?"
"Apparently not," Liliac cut her off, disgusted. "He does look a lot like him, but they're completely different – and he doesn't recognise me."
"You're one of the students I have a responsibility for," the Administrator said. "That's all I need to know. Now: close that portal or I shall be forced to start resorting to... many things."
"Ugh," Liliac muttered. "Fine. Platy – Case Dobby. Get lost."
The platypus grinned. "Got it, boss. Elfbane – watch yourself." She dropped to the ground and ran through the blue gate, which vanished a few moments later with a soft sucking sound.
"Good," the Administrator said, and glanced over his shoulder. "Of course, there is still the matter of the rules you've broken by trying to leave."
Liliac snorted and folded her arms. "Right. What are you going to do, throw me in-?"
Phoebe barely had time to grab her scythe as the mini-Luggages leapt.
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. The Interdimensional Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Elves is my invention, and its operatives are based on applications to join. 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: Ispace! It's been a while since I've seen these guys... they were founded about a decade ago to do, well, exactly what it says on the tin – 'Protect the Elves, beat up everyone else!'. For more information, and the original Ispace story, take a look at this post.