Soul music, p.16
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       Soul Music, p.16

         Part #16 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
 
Page 16

 

  Hahaha, said the Bursar nervously, still rubbing his ear. It wasnt a rhetorical question. Ridcully snatched the knives out of the Lecturers hands. The man went on beating the air for a moment, and then appeared to wake up. Oh, hello, Archchancellor. Is there a problem?

  What were you doing? The Lecturer looked down at the table. He was syncopating, said the Dean. I never was! Ridcully frowned. He was a thick-skinned, single-minded man with the tact of a sledgehammer and about the same sense of humour, but he was not stupid. And he knew that wizards were like weathervanes, or the canaries that miners used to detect pockets of gas. They were by their nature tuned to an occult frequency. If there was anything strange happening, it tended to happen to wizards. They turned, as it were, to face it. Or dropped off their perch. Whys everyone suddenly so musical? he said. Using the term in its loosest sense, of course. He looked at the assembled wizardry. And then down towards the floor. Youve all got crepe on your shoes!

  The wizards looked at their feet with some surprise. My word, I thought I was a bit taller, said the Senior Wrangler. I put it down to the celery diet. [15] Proper footwear for a wizard is pointy shoes or good stout boots, said Ridcully. When ones footwear turns creepy, somethings amiss.

  Its crepe, said the Dean. Its got a little pointy thingy over the- Ridcully breathed heavily. When your boots change by themselves- he growled. Theres magic afoot?

  Haha, good one, Senior Wrangler, said the Dean. I want to know whats going on, said Ridcully, in a low and level voice, and if you dont all shut up there will be trouble. He reached into the pockets of his robe and, after a few false starts, produced a pocket thaumometer. He held it up. There was always a high level of background magic in the University, but the little needle was on the Normal mark. On average, anyway. It was ticking backwards and forwards across it like a metronome. Ridcully held it up so they could all see. Whats this? he said. Four-four time? said the Dean. Music aint magic, said Ridcully. Dont be daft. Musics just twanging and banging and- He stopped. Has anyone got anything they should be telling me? The wizards shuffled their blue-suede feet nervously. Well, said the Senior Wrangler, it is a fact that last night, er, I, that is to say, some of us, happened to be passing by the Mended Drum-

  Bona-Fide Travellers, said the Lecturer in Recent Runes. Its allowable for Bona-Fide Travellers to get a Drink at Licensed Premises at any Hour of Day or Night. City statute, you know.

  Where were you travelling from, then? Ridcully demanded. The Bunch of Grapes.

  Thats just around the corner.

  Yes, but we were . . . tired.

  All right, all right, said Ridcully, in the voice of a man who knows that pulling at a thread any more will cause the whole vest to unravel. The Librarian was with you?

  Oh, yes.

  Go on.

  Well, there was this music-

  Sort of twangy, said the Senior Wrangler. Melody led, said the Dean. It was . . .

  . . . sort of . . .

  . . . in a way it . . .

  . . . kind of gets under your skin and makes you feel fizzy, said the Dean. Incidentally, has anyone got any black paint? Ive looked everywhere.

  Under your skin, murmured Ridcully. He scratched his chin. Oh, dear. One of those. Stuff leakin into the universe again, eh? Influences coming from Outside, yes? Remember what happened when Mr Hong opened his takeaway fish bar on the site of the old temple in Dagon Street? And then there were those moving pictures. I was against them from the start. And those wire things on wheels. This universe has more damn holes in it than a Quirm cheese. Well, at-

  Lancre cheese, said the Senior Wrangler helpfully. Thats the one with the holes. Quirm is

  the one with the blue veins. Ridcully gave him a look. Actually, it didnt feel magical, said the Dean. He sighed. He was seventy-two. It had made him feel that he was seventeen again. He couldnt remember having been seventeen; it was something that must have happened to him while he was busy. But it made him feel like he imagined it felt like when you were seventeen, which was like having a permanent red-hot vest on under your skin. He wanted to hear it again. I think theyre going to have it again tonight, he ventured. We could, er, go along and listen. In order to learn more about it, in case its a threat to society, he added virtuously. Thats right, Dean, said the Lecturer in Recent Runes. Its our civic duty. Were the citys first line of supernatural defence. Supposing ghastly creatures started coming out of the air?

  What about it? said the Chair of Indefinite Studies. Well, wed be there.

  Yes? Thats good, is it? Ridcully glared at his wizards. Two of them were surreptitiously tapping their feet. And several of them appeared to be twitching, very gently. The Bursar twitched gently all the time, of course, but that was only his way. Like canaries, he thought. Or lightning conductors. All right, he said reluctantly. Well go. But we wont draw attention to ourselves.

  Certainly, Archchancellor.

  And everyones to buy their own drink.

  Oh. Corporal (possibly) Cotton saluted in front of the forts sergeant, who was trying to shave. Its the new recruit, sir, he said. He wont obey orders. The sergeant nodded, and then looked blankly at something in his own hand. Razor, sir, said the corporal helpfully. He just keeps on saying things like ITS NOT HAPPENING YET.

  Have you tried burying him up to the neck in the sand? That usually works.

  Its a bit . . . um . . . thing . . . nasty to people . . . had it a moment ago . . . The corporal snapped his fingers. Thing. Cruel. Thats it. We dont give people . . . the Pit . . . these days.

  This is the . . . the sergeant glanced at the palm of his left hand, where there were several lines of writing, the Foreign Legion.

  Yessir. All right, sir. Hes weird. He just sits there all the time. We call him Beau Nidle, sir. The sergeant peered bemusedly at the mirror. Its your face, sir, said the corporal. Susan stared at herself critically. Susan . . . it wasnt a good name, was it? It wasnt a truly bad name, it wasnt like poor Iodine in the fourth form, or Nigella, a name which means oops, we wanted a boy. But it was dull. Susan. Sue. Good old Sue. It was a name that made sandwiches, kept its head in difficult circumstances and could reliably look after other peoples children. It was a name used by no queens or goddesses anywhere. And you couldnt do much even with the spelling. You could turn it into Suzi, and it sounded as though you danced on tables for a living. You could put in a Z and a couple of Ns and an E, but it still looked like a name with extensions built on. It was as bad as Sara, a name that cried out for a prosthetic H. Well, at least she could do something about the way she looked. It was the robe. It might be traditional but . . . she wasnt. The alternative was her school uniform or one of her mothers pink creations. The baggy dress of the Quirm College for Young Ladies was a proud one and, in the mind of Miss Butts at least, proof against all the

  temptations of the flesh . . . but it lacked a certain panache as costume for the Ultimate Reality. And pink was not even to be thought of. For the first time in the history of the universe, a Death wondered about what to wear. Hold on, she said, to her reflection. Here . . . I can create things, cant I? She held out her hand and thought: cup. A cup appeared. It had a skull-and-bones pattern around the rim. Ah, said Susan. I suppose a pattern of roses is out of the question? Probably not right for the ambience, I expect. She put the cup on the dressing table and tapped it. It went plink in a solid sort of way. Well, then, she said, I dont want something soppy and posey. No silly black lace or anything worn by idiots who write poetry in their rooms and dress like vampires and are vegetarians really. The images of clothes floated across her reflection. It was clear that black was the only option, but she settled on something practical and without frills. She put her head on one side critically. Well, maybe a bit of lace, she said. And perhaps a bit more . . . bodice. She nodded at her reflection in the mirror. Certainly it was a dress that no Susan would ever wear, although she suspected that there was a basic Susanness about her which would permeate it after a w
hile. Its a good job youre here, she said, or Id go totally mad. Haha. Then she went to see her grandf . . . Death. There was one place he had to be. Glod wandered quietly into the University Library. Dwarfs respected learning, provided they didnt have to experience it. He tugged at the robe of a passing young wizard. Theres a monkey runs this place, right? he said. Big fat hairy monkey, hands a couple of octaves wide? The wizard, a pasty-faced post-graduate student, looked down at Glod with the disdainful air a certain type of person always reserves for dwarfs. It wasnt much fun being a student in Unseen University. You had to find your pleasures where you could. He grinned a big, wide, innocent grin. Why, yes, he said. I do believe right at this moment hes in his workroom in the basement. But you have to be very careful how you address him.

  Is that so? said Glod. Yes, you have to be sure to say, “Do you want a peanut, Mr Monkey?” said the student wizard. He signalled a couple of his colleagues. Thats so, isnt it? He has to say Mister Monkey.

  Oh, yes indeedy, said a student. Actually, if you dont want him to get annoyed its best to be on the safe side and scratch under your arms. That puts him at his ease.

  And go ugh-ugh-ugh, said a third student. He likes that.

  Well, thank you very much, said Glod. Which way do I go?

  Well show you, said the first student. Thats so very kind.

  Dont mention it. Only too glad to help. The three wizards led Glod down a flight of steps and into a tunnel. Light filtered down through the occasional pane of green glass set in the floor above. Every so often Glod heard a snigger behind him. The Librarian was squatting down on the floor in a long, high cellar. Miscellaneous items had been scattered on the floor in front of him; there was a cartwheel, odd bits of wood and bone, and various pipes, rods and lengths of wire that somehow suggested that, around the city,

  people were puzzling over broken pumps and fences with holes in. The Librarian was chewing the end of a piece of pipe and looking intently at the heap. Thats him, said one of the wizards, giving Glod a push. The dwarf shuffled forward. There was another outburst of muffled giggling behind him. He tapped the Librarian on the shoulder. Excuse me-

  Ook?

  Those guys just called you a monkey, said Glod, jerking a thumb in the direction of the door. Id make them say sorry, if I was you. There was a creaking, metallic noise, followed very closely by a scuffling outside as the wizards trampled one another in their effort to get away. The Librarian had bent the pipe into a U-shape, apparently without effort. Glod went to the door and looked out. There was a pointy hat on the flagstones, trampled flat. That was fun, he said. If Id just asked them where the Librarian was, theyd have said bugger off, you dwarf. You have to know how to deal with people in this game. He came back and sat down beside the Librarian. The ape put a smaller bend in the pipe. Whatre you making? said Glod. Gook-oook-OOK!

  My cousin Modo is the gardener here, said Glod. He says youre a mean keyboard player. He stared at the hands, busy in the pipebending. They were big. And of course there were four of them. He was certainly partly right, he added. The ape picked up a length of driftwood and tasted it. We thought you might like to play pianoforte with us at the Drum tonight, said Glod. Me and Cliff and Buddy, that is. The Librarian rolled a brown eye towards him, then picked up a piece of wood, gripped one end and began to strum. Ook?

 
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