Soul music, p.14
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       Soul Music, p.14

         Part #16 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Page 14



  Just thinking. My name . . . its not right for this music, either.

  What does it mean in real language? said Glod. Well, all my family are y Celyns, said Imp, ignoring the insult to an ancient tongue. It

  means “of the holllly ”. Thats allll that grows in Llamedos, you see. Everything else just rots.

  I wasnt goin to say, said Cliff, but Imp sounds a bit like elf to me.

  It just means “small shoot”, said Imp. You know. Like a bud.

  Bud y Celyn? said Glod. Buddy? Worse than Cliff, in my opinion.

  I . . . think it sounds right, said Imp. Glod shrugged, and pulled a handful of coins out of his pocket. Weve still got moren four dollars, he said. I know what we should do with it, too.

  We should put it towards Guild membership, said the new Buddy. Glod stared into the middle distance. No, he said. We havent got the sound right. I mean, it was very good, very . . . new, he stared hard at Imp-cum-Buddy, but theres still something missing . . . The dwarf gave Buddy né Imp another penetrating stare. Do you know youre shaking all over? he said. Moving around on your seat like you got a pant full of ant.

  I cant help it, said Buddy. He wanted to sleep, but a rhythm was bouncing around inside his head. I saw it too, said Cliff. When we was walking here, you were bouncing along. He looked under the table. And you is tapping your feet.

  And you keep snapping your fingers, said Glod. I cant stop thinking about the music, said Buddy. Youre right. We need . . . he drummed his fingers along the table, . . . a sound like . . . pang pang pang PANG Pang . . . You mean a keyboard? said Glod. Do I?

  Theyve got one of those new pianofortes just over the river in the Opera House, said Glod. Yah, but dat sort of thing aint for our kind of music, said Cliff. Dat sort of thing is for big fat guys in powdered wigs.

  I reckon, said Glod, giving Buddy another lopsided stare, if we put it anywhere near Im- near Buddy, itll be for our kind of music soon enough. So go and get it.

  I heard where it cost four hundred dollars, said Cliff. No-ones got that many teeth.

  I didnt mean buy it, said Glod. Just . . . borrow it for a while.

  Days stealing, said Cliff. No its not, said the dwarf. Well let them have it back when weve finished with it.

  Oh. Dats all right den. Buddy wasnt a drummer or a troll and he could see the technical flaw in Glods argument. And, a few weeks ago, hed have said so. But then hed been a good circle-going boy from the valleys, who didnt drink, didnt swear and played the harp at every druidic sacrifice. Now he needed that piano. The sound had been nearly right. He snapped his fingers in time with his thoughts. But we aint got anyone to play it, said Cliff. You get the piano, said Glod. Ill get the piano player. And all the time they kept glancing at the guitar. The wizards advanced in a body towards the organ. The air around it vibrated as if super- heated. What an unholy noise! shouted the Lecturer in Recent Runes. Oh, I dont know! screamed the Dean. Its rather catchy! Blue sparks crackled between the organ pipes. The Librarian could just be seen high in the trembling structure. Whos pumping it? screamed the Senior Wrangler. Ridcully looked around at the side. The handle seemed to be going up and down by itself. Im not having this, he muttered, not in my damn university. Its worse than students.

  And he raised his crossbow and fired, right at the main bellows. There was a long-drawn-out wail in the key of A, and then the organ exploded. The history of the subsequent seconds was put together during a discussion in the Uncommon Room where the wizards went for a stiff drink or, in the Bursars case, a warm milk shortly afterwards. The Lecturer in Recent Runes swore that the 64-foot Gravissima organ pipe went skywards on a pillar of flame. The Chair of Indefinite Studies and the Senior Wrangler said that when they found the Librarian upside down in one of the fountains in Sator Square, outside the University, he was going ook ook to himself and grinning. The Bursar said that hed seen a dozen naked young women bouncing up and down on his bed, but the Bursar occasionally said things like this anyway, especially when hed been indoors a lot. The Dean said nothing at all. His eyes were glazed. Sparks crackled in his hair. He was wondering if hed be allowed to paint his bedroom black . . . . the beat went on . . . The lifetimer of Imp stood in the middle of the huge desk. The Death of Rats walked around it, squeaking under his breath. Susan looked at it, too. There was no doubt that all the sand was in the bottom bulb. But something else had filled the top and was pouring through the pinch. It was pale blue and coiling in frantically on itself, like excited smoke. Have you ever seen anything like it? she said. SQUEAK. Nor me. Susan stood up. The shadows around the walls, now that shed got used to them, seemed to be of things -not exactly machinery, but not exactly furniture either. There had been an orrery on the lawn at the college. The distant shapes put her in mind of it, although what stars it measured in what dark courses she really couldnt say. They seemed to be projections of things too strange even for this strange dimension. Shed wanted to save his life, and that was right. She knew it. As soon as shed seen his name she . . . well, it was important. Shed inherited some of Deaths memory. She couldnt have met the boy, but perhaps he had. She felt that the name and the face had established themselves so deeply in her mind now that the rest of her thoughts were forced to orbit them. Something else had saved him first. She held the lifetimer up to her ear again. She found herself tapping her foot. And realized that distant shadows were moving. She ran across the floor, the real floor, the one outside the boundaries of the carpet. The shadows looked more like mathematics would be if it was solid. There were vast curves of . . . something. Pointers like clock hands, but longer than a tree, moved slowly through the air. The Death of Rats climbed on to her shoulder. I suppose you dont know whats happening? SQUEAK. Susan nodded. Rats, she supposed, died when they should. They didnt try to cheat, or return from the dead. There were no such things as zombie rats. Rats knew when to give up. She looked at the glass again. The boy - and she used the term as girls will of young males several years older than them - the boy had played a chord on the guitar or whatever it was,

  and history had been bent. Or had skipped, or something. Something besides her didnt want him dead. It was two oclock in the morning, and raining. Constable Detritus, Ankh-Morpork City Watch, was guarding the Opera House. It was an approach to policing that hed picked up from Sergeant Colon. When you were all by yourself in the middle of a rainy night, go and guard something big with handy overhanging eaves. Colon had pursued this policy for years, as a result of which no major landmark had ever been stolen. [10] It had been an uneventful night. About an hour earlier a 64-foot organ pipe had dropped out of the sky. Detritus had wandered over to inspect the crater, but he wasnt quite certain if this was criminal activity. Besides, for all he knew this was how you got organ pipes. For the last five minutes hed also been hearing muffled thumps and the occasional tinkling noise from inside the Opera House. Hed made a note of it. He did not wish to appear stupid. Detritus had never been inside the Opera House. He didnt know what sound it normally made at 2 a. m. The front doors opened, and a large oddly shaped flat box came out, hesitantly. It advanced in a curious way - a few steps forward, a couple of steps back. And it was also talking to itself. Detritus looked down. He could see . . . he paused . . . at least seven legs of various sizes, only four of which had feet. He shambled across to the box and banged on the side. Hello, hello, hello, what is all this . . . then? he said, concentrating to get the sentence right. The box stopped. Then it said, Were a piano. Detritus gave this due consideration. He wasnt sure what a piano was. A piano move about, does it? he said. Its . . . weve got legs, said the piano. Detritus conceded the point. But it are the middle of the night, he said. Even pianos have to have time off, said the piano. Detritus scratched his head. This seemed to cover it. Well . . . all right, he said. He watched the piano jerk and wobble down the marble steps and round the corner. It carried on talking to itself: How long have we got, dyou think?

  We ought to mak
e it to the bridge. He not clever enough to be a drummer.

  But hes a policeman.




  We might get caught.

  He cant stop us. Were on a mission from Glod.

  Right. The piano tottered onward through the puddles for a little while, and then asked itself: Buddy?


  Why did I just say dat?

  Say what?

  About us being on a mission . . . you know . . . from Glod?

  Weeell . . . the dwarf said to us, go and get the piano, and his name is Glod, so-

  Yeah. Yeah. Right . . . but . . . he couldve stopped us, I mean, deres nothing special about

  some mission from some dwarf-

  Maybe you were just a bit tired.

  Maybe dats it, said the piano, gratefully. Anyway, we are on a mission from Glod.

  Yup. Glod sat in his lodgings, watching the guitar. It had stopped playing when Buddy had gone out, although if he put his ear close to the strings he was sure that they were still humming very gently. Now he very carefully reached out and touched the- To call the sudden snapping sound discordant would be too mild. The sound had a snarl, it had talons. Glod sat back. Right. Right. It was Buddys instrument. An instrument played by the same person over the years could become very adapted to them, although not in Glods experience to the point of biting someone else. Buddy hadnt had it a day yet, but the principle maybe was the same. There was an old dwarf legend about the famous Horn of Furgle, which sounded itself when danger was near and also in the presence, for some reason, of horseradish. And there was even an Ankh-Morpork legend, wasnt there, about some old drum in the Palace or somewhere that was supposed to bang itself if an enemy fleet was seen sailing up the Ankh? The legend had died out in recent centuries, partly because this was the Age of Reason and also because no enemy fleet could sail up the Ankh without a gang of men with shovels going in front. And there was a troll story about some stones that, on frosty nights . . . The point was that magical instruments turned up every so often. Glod reached out again. JUD-Adud-adud-duh. All right, all right . . . The old music shop was right up against the University, after all, and magic did leak out despite what the wizards always said about the talking rats and walking trees just being statistical flukes. But this didnt feel like magic. It felt a lot older than that. It felt like music. Glod wondered whether he should persuade Im- Buddy to take it back to the shop, get a proper guitar . . . On the other hand, six dollars was six dollars. At least. Something hammered on the door. Whos that? said Glod, looking up. The pause outside was long enough to let him guess. He decided to help out. Cliff? he said. Yup. Got a piano here.

  Bring it on in.

  Had to break off der legs and der lid and a few other bits but its basically OK.

  Bring it on in, then.

  Doors too narrow. Buddy, coming up the stairs behind the troll, heard the crunch of woodwork. Try it again.

  Fits perfectly. There was a piano-shaped hole around the doorway. Glod was standing next to it, holding his axe. Buddy looked at the wreckage all over the landing. What the hell are you doing? he said. Thats someone elses wall !

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