The mood was unsettled as Class Two made their way to their first lesson the following day. The two surviving vampires, Iplis and Lucy2, travelled under what was essentially armed guard – Raen with her knife and the alarmingly stern Lindyellwen with her sharpened hoof. The conversation in the rest of the diminished group was superficially normal, but tension lurked like a shark below the surface, its ripples touching the minds of all.
All, that is, except Phoebe and Penny, who chatted away as if they hadn't a care in the world. Eventually, Liliac – who had been checking up on Tisea, making sure she'd recovered from Kai's attempt to drain her dry – joined them.
"Doing okay, then, Penny?" Liliac asked with forced cheer.
Penny nodded. "Pretty much all healed now," she said. "Kaitlyn thinks the vamps had some sort of coagulant on their fangs – which makes no sense, by the way, and I don't think it's canon, so it's on the list – but that's why we've healed so fast."
Liliac frowned at her. "You're really okay?" she pressed. "No lingering psychological trauma or anything? I mean, if you're going to go Bursar on us I need to know."
Penny glanced across at the subdued figure of Iplis and sighed softly. "It still hurts to think about, if that's what you mean," she said, one hand rising to rub her throat absently. "But Phoebe's done a good job of taking my mind off it."
Phoebe giggled, an incongruous sound in the general gloom. "You're welcome," she said, and Penny smiled back at her.
"... so you keep mentioning that list," Liliac changed the subject. "Is that the one you were working on with Kaitlyn?"
"And Raen and Nenya, yes," Penny nodded. "Actually I need to talk to you about it. Do you-"
"Incoming!" called Phoenix Flight, who some quiet discussion at breakfast had placed on point. The class shifted in response, falling into a defensive formation, with Hawkelf shooting up to act as overwatch, Vee, Nenya and (presumably) Llama as primary defence, and Raen and Lindyellwen drawing closer to their charges. Phoebe found herself at the centre of a convincing defensive ring.
The haggard figure of the Administrator walked into view, leading two others. The shorter of the two gave a cheerful wave.
"Hi all!" Cazzie called. "Did you miss me?"
The Administrator ignored her and came to a halt in front of Class Two. Over the shoulders of Nenya and Andy, his eyes met Phoebe's.
"Miss Mercuria has told me about your... actions," he said wearily.
Liliac scowled. "I should have left her for the cleaners," she muttered. "Blasted minis."
The Administrator ignored her, too. "The Hat isn't pleased that half your class will be out of action today. That means I have to go and recover the fangirls you failed to send on their way."
"You can't," Lindyellwen said flatly. "We threw them out of the window when the storm blew in. Not even Blind EIEIO could find them now."
The appearance of a small, many-legged altar did nothing to distract from the Administrator's wince, not even when it promptly lifted its lid and shot a lightning bolt into Becky's ankle.
"You realise they are actual people, yes?" the Administrator snapped. "That even fangirls have some rights? That an OFU which loses half its students will-" He stopped, visible collecting himself. "Right. Well. Here are your colleagues. Try not to murder any more of each other."
As Cazzie practically skipped over to Liliac, and Saphie and Tisea escorted Mercuria over to the other vampires, Phoebe found herself studying the Administrator. Her first impression had been right – 'haggard' fit him like a glove.
"Talk to Time," Penny said suddenly from Phoebe's side, and every eye turned to her. She shrugged. "She – or he, now, I guess – might be able to take you back to when they threw the vampires out."
The Administrator gave her a long look, then nodded grudgingly. "Maybe I will," he said. "As for you lot... you're already late for class. Make your way to Harga's House of Ribs – however many of you are left."
Class Two exchanged looks as he walked away. Finally, sounding a little too upbeat to be true, Esme said, "So, Sham Harga. What's he going to teach us, do you think?"
"I don't care what he teaches," Raen growled. "I just want to borrow a knife..."
The class laughed, letting the tension in the air relax a little, and started walking. Penny squeezed Phoebe's hand. "Because if I can't, who could?" she asked. Phoebe shook her head slightly.
"I do understand," she said. "It's just..."
"Yeah. I know."
The remainder of the journey into Ankh-Morpork was thoroughly uneventful, save for what Cazzie cheerfully referred to as Operation Wish I Had A Map. Finally, Kaitlyn knocked on a dilapidated wooden door, and OFUDisc Class Two were let through into the kitchen of...
... not Sham Harga, who even Phoebe remembered was a rather large man. Lindyellwen squeaked at the sight of the tall, battered figure scowling over a frying pan. "Albert O'Malley?"
Saphie snorted. "With a face like that? Alberto Malice, more like."
Two ancient red tobacco pouches popped into existence on hundreds of tiny legs. One sat down to wash its whiskers, prompting the other to lunge forward and push it over. The girls stared.
"Tch, look what you've done," their apparent teacher snapped. "It's Albert – no more, no less. Can you handle that?"
"No problem, Old Burn," Lindyellwen chirped, prompting the appearance of a third, singed pouch (which Alberto Malice promptly tripped over). Albert grimaced.
"You'd be the one who 'can't die'," he rasped. "That doesn't mean you can't be punished – understand?"
"Yes," Liliac said flatly, "we understand." The rest of the class drew in around her, each sporting the closest thing they had to a weapon (which in Raen's case was now a very large carving knife). Liliac smiled thinly, and added, "We won't let that happen."
There was a long silence, and then Albert grinned, showing yellow teeth. "So, you're here to learn how to cook," he began. "If you'll each collect a frying pan..."
As Death's manservant began his lesson with a serving of deep-fried strawberries, Phoebe found herself standing with Penny, Liliac and Cazzie for the first time in... well, it must have been ages... she blinked with a bizarre realisation.
"You know we've only been here for five days," she murmured. The others looked surprised, then Liliac laughed.
"Ridiculous how much we've managed to do, isn't it?" she asked. "Sort of makes you wish you'd never signed up, doesn't it?"
"If I hadn't, life would be a lot simpler," Phoebe agreed with a small smile. "But..."
Cazzie nodded. "But we four would never have met," she said quietly. "And I wouldn't change that."
"Me neither," Liliac agreed. "Not for all the spice in Klatch."
"It's nice we all agree," Phoebe laughed, but froze as she saw Penny's frown. "... you don't?"
"What?" Penny shook herself. "Sorry. No, I would never wish I hadn't met you. It's just..."
"Vemi?" Phoebe asked gently.
Penny blinked at her, clearly surprised. "No, actually. I was thinking about the list I've been working on. It's... in some ways it's even more important than, well, us."
"Ah, the mysterious list," Liliac said. "It's good to know there's someone else with an ulterior motive." But she was smiling as she said it, and Penny grinned back.
"It's not that mysterious. It's just... look, haven't you noticed this place makes no sense?"
"Well, no," Cazzie said slowly. "It's the Discworld."
"Har har. But seriously. Liliac, how old are you?"
"Seventeen," Liliac replied, then frowned. "No, wait. Twenty... five?"
"Exactly." Penny turned to Phoebe. "And what was the last Discworld book?"
"Um. Monstrous... Regiment?" She shook her head. "I think there's been a couple more..."
"Eight and a 'Science of' one," Penny pointed out, and Phoebe's jaw dropped. She couldn't have gotten that confused... but wait, come to think of it, there was that Post Office one, what was it called...?
"And the list goes on," Penny said, derailing Phoebe's train of thought. "Raen over there took three days to remember she's married now, and none of us have a decent reason for signing up."
Cazzie raised a hand. "Just for the record," she said, "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"No, you don't," Penny agreed, "and that's weird too. As is... well, you must have noticed that distances are messed up here. I know none of you are PPC-types, but you have to have caught that."
"I did think Uberwald ought to be a bit further away from Ankh," Phoebe agreed, as her friend's meaning began to dawn on her. "So why-?"
Penny wasn't done. "And then there was that 'Traveler fell faster because of belief', which makes no sense on Discworld. And don't get me started on those 'vampires'..."
"So we're, what, timeslipped into a broken version of the canon?" Liliac asked. Penny shook her head.
"There's more that's wrong. This OFU – it bears no resemblance to the others. Where's the Course Coordinator? Where's the central building? Where," she added grimly, "are the other classes?"
The others stared at her. Then Cazzie nodded slowly. "And the minis," she suggested. "They all look different..."
"And they're all from spoken mistakes," Penny agreed. "And then there's the biggest problem of all: how did we get here?"
There was dead silence. Phoebe tried to think back. She'd been in her room, and then... then Pretty Butterfly had been asking questions? No, that couldn't be right. There'd been a giant broomstick... no, that was the rock their first class had been on. But she'd read OFUM (or at least the first couple of chapters), normally there was some sort of introductory period...
Finally, Penny said, "That's what I've been working on. And I think-"
"I think you're burning your strawberries," interrupted a crabby voice. Penny yelped and snatched them off the stove. "Never mind," Albert went on, looking at the blackened lumps which clung to the cast iron pan like iconographers to a minor celebrity. "I'm sure your friends will help you eat them... if, that is, they keep on talking."
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: What – you didn't think I was actually making mistakes, did you? Well, all right, maybe I was – but if so, I think I'm about to get called on it...