Soul music, p.27
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       Soul Music, p.27

         Part #16 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
 
Page 27

 

  Yes, your lordship. He keeps saying that he wants to know what you are doing about it.

  Good. Then I can ask him the same question. The Patrician sat back. Si non confectus, non reficiat. That was the motto of the Vetinaris. Everything worked if you just let it happen. He picked up a stack of sheet-music and began to listen to Salamis Prelude to a Nocturne on a Theme by Bubbla. After a while he looked up. Dont hesitate to leave, he snapped. The Smell slunk away. SQUEAK! Dont be stupid! All I did was frighten them off. Its not as though I hurt them. Whats the good of having the power if you cant use it? The Death of Rats put his nose in his paws. It was a lot easier, with rats. [22] C. M. O. T. Dibbler often did without sleep, too. He generally had to meet Chalky at night. Chalky was a large troll but tended to dry up and flake in daylight. Other trolls looked down on him because he came from a sedimentary family and was therefore a very low-class troll indeed. He didnt mind. He was a very amiable character. He did odd jobs for people who needed something unusual in a hurry and without entanglements and who had clinking money. And this job was pretty odd. Just boxes? he said. With lids, said Dibbler. Like this one Ive made. And a bit of wire stretched inside. Some people would have said Why? or What for? but Chalky didnt make his money like that. He picked up the box and turned it this way and that. How many? he said. Just ten to start with, said Dibbler. But I think therell be more later. Lots and lots more.

  How manys ten? said the troll. Dibbler held up both hands, fingers extended. Ill do them for two dollar, said Chalky. You want me to cut my own throat?

  Two dollar.

  Dollar each for these and a dollar-fifty for the next batch.

  Two dollar.

  All right, all right, two dollars each. Thats ten dollars the lot, right?

  Right.

  And thats cutting my own throat. Chalky tossed the box aside. It bounced on the floor and the lid came off. Some time later a small, greyish-brown mongrel dog, on the prowl for anything edible, limped into the workshop and sat peering into the box for a while. Then it felt a bit of an idiot and wandered off. Ridcully hammered on the door of the High Energy Magic Building as the city clocks were striking two. He was supporting Ponder Stibbons, who was asleep on his feet. Ridcully was not a quick thinker. But he always got there eventually. The door opened and Skazzs hair appeared. Are you facin me? said Ridcully. Yes, Archchancellor.

  Let us in, then, the dews soaking through me boots. Ridcully looked around as he helped Ponder in. Wish I knew what it was that keeps you lads working all hours, he said. I never found magic that interesting when I was a lad. Go and fetch some coffee for Mr Stibbons here, will you?

  And then get your friends. Skazz bustled off and Ridcully was left alone, except for the slumbering Ponder. What is it they do? he said. He never really tried to find out. Skazz had been working at a long bench by one wall. At least he recognized the little wooden disc. There were small oblong stones ranged on it in a couple of concentric circles, and a candle lantern positioned on a swivelling arm so that it could be moved anywhere around the circumference. It was a travelling computer for druids, a sort of portable stone circle, something they called a kneetop. The Bursar had sent off for one once. It had said For the Priest In a Hurry on the box. Hed never been able to make it work properly and now it was used as a doorstop. Ridcully couldnt see what they had to do with magic. After all, it wasnt much more than a calendar and you could get a perfectly good calendar for 8p. Rather more puzzling was the huge array of glass tubes behind it. That was where Skazz had been working; there was a litter of bent glassware and jars and bits of cardboard where the student had been sitting. The tubing seemed to be alive. Ridcully leaned forward. It was full of ants. They scuttled along the tubing and through complex little spirals in their thousands. In the silence of the room, their bodies made a faint, continuous rustling. There was a slot level with the Archchancellors eyes. The word In was written on a piece of paper that had been pasted onto the glass. And on the bench was an oblong of card which looked just the right shape to go in the slot. It had round holes punched in it. There were two round holes, then a whole pattern of round holes, and then a further two holes. On it, in pencil, someone had scribbled 2 x 2. Ridcully was the kind of man whod push any lever, just to see what it did. He put the card in the obvious slot . . . There was an immediate change in the rustling. Ants trailed in their busy way through the tubing. Some of them appeared to be carrying seeds . . . There was a small dull sound and a card dropped out of the other end of the glass maze. It had four holes in it. Ridcully was still staring at it when Ponder came up behind him, rubbing his eyes. S our ant counter, he said. Two plus two equals four, said Ridcully. Well, well, I never knew that.

  It can do other sums as well.

  You tellin me ants can count?

  Oh, no. Not individual ants . . . its a bit hard to explain . . . the holes in the cards, you see, block up some tubes and let them through others and . . . Ponder sighed, we think it might be able to do other things.

  Like what? Ridcully demanded. Er, thats what were trying to find out . . .

  Youre trying to find out? Who built it?

  Skazz.

  And now youre trying to find out what it does?

  Well, we think it might be able to do quite complicated maths. If we can get enough bugs in it. Ants were still bustling around the enormous crystalline structure. Had a rat thingy, a gerbil or something, when I was a lad, said Ridcully, giving up in the face

  of the incomprehensible. Spent all the time on a treadmill. Round and round, all night long. This is a bit like that, yes?

  In very broad terms, said Ponder carefully. Had an ant farm, too, said Ridcully, thinking faraway thoughts. The little devils never could plough straight. He pulled himself together. Anyway, get the rest of your chums here right now.

  What for?

  A bit of a tutorial, said Ridcully. Arent we going to examine the music?

  In good time, said Ridcully. But first, were going to talk to someone.

  Im not sure, said Ridcully. Well know when he turns up. Or her. Glod looked at their suite. The hotel owners had just left, after going through the dis is der window, it really opens, dis is der pump, you get water out of it wit der handle here, dis is me waiting for some money routine. Well, that just about does it. That just about puts the iron helmet on it, that does, he said. We play Music With Rocks In all evening, and weve got a room that looks like this?

  Its homely, said Cliff. Look, trolls dont have much to do with de frills of life- Glod looked towards his feet. Its on the floor and its soft, he said. Silly me for thinking it was a carpet. Someone fetch me a broom. No, someone fetch me a shovel. Then someone fetch me a broom.

  Itll do, said Buddy. He put down his guitar and stretched out on the wooden slab that was apparently one of the beds. Cliff, said Glod, can I have a word? He jerked a stubby thumb at the door. They conferred on the landing. Its getting bad, said Glod. Yep.

  He hardly says a word now when hes not on stage.

  Yep.

  Ever met a zombie?

  I know a golem. Mr Dorfl down in Long Hogmeat.

  Him? Hes a genuine zombie?

  Yep. Got a holy word on his head, I seen it.

  Yuk. Really? I buy sausages from him.

  Anyway . . . what about zombies?

  . . . you couldnt tell from the taste, I thought he was a really good sausage-maker . . .

  What were you saying about zombies?

  . . . funny how you can know someone for years and then find out theyve got feet of clay . . .

  Zombies . . . said Cliff patiently. What? Oh. Yes. I mean he acts like one. Glod recalled some of the zombies in AnkhMorpork. At least, like zombies are supposed to act.

  Yep. I know what you mean.

  And we both know why.

  Yep. Er. Why?

  The guitar.

  Oh, that. Yeah.

  When were on stage, that thing is in charge- In
the silence of the room, the guitar lay in the dark by Buddys bed and its strings vibrated gently to the sound of the dwarfs voice . . . OK, so what do we do about it? said Cliff.

  Its made of wood. Ten seconds with an axe, no more problem.

  Im not sure. That aint no ordinary instrument.

  He was a nice kid when we met him. For a human, said Glod. So what do we do? I dont think we could get it off him.

  Maybe we could get him to- The dwarf paused. He was aware of a fuzzy echo to his voice. That damn thing is listening to us! he hissed. Lets go outside. They ended up out in the road. Cant see how it can listen, said Cliff. An instruments for listening to.

  The strings listen, said Glod, flatly. That is not an ordinary instrument. Cliff shrugged. Deres one way we could find out, he said. Early morning fog filled the streets. Around the University it was sculpted into curious forms by the slight magical background radiation. Strange-shaped things moved across the damp cobbles. Two of them were Glod and Cliff. Right, said the dwarf. Here we are. He looked up at a blank wall. I knew it! he said. Didnt I say? Magic! How many times have we heard this story? Theres a mysterious shop no-ones ever seen before, and someone goes in and buys some rusty old curio, and it turns out to-

  Glod-

  -some kind of talisman or a bottle full of genie, and then when theres trouble they go back and the shop-

  Glod-?

  -has mysteriously disappeared and gone back to whatever dimension it came from- yes, what is it?

  Youre on the wrong side of the road. Its over here. Glod glared at the blank wall, and then turned and stomped across the road. It was a mistake anyone could have made.

  Yep.

  It doesnt invalidate anything I said. Glod rattled the door and, to his surprise, found it was unlocked. Its gone two in the morning! What kind of music shop is open at two in the morning? Glod struck a match. The dusty graveyard of old instruments loomed around them. It looked as though a number of prehistoric animals had been caught in a flash flood and then fossilized. Whats that one that looks like a serpent? whispered Cliff. Its called a Serpent. Glod was uneasy. Hed spent most of his life as a musician. He hated the sight of dead instruments, and these were dead. They didnt belong to anyone. No-one played them. They were like bodies without life, people without souls. Something they had contained had gone. Every one of them represented a musician down on his luck. There was a pool of light in a grove of bassoons. The old lady was deeply asleep in a rocking chair, with a tangle of knitting on her lap and a shawl around her shoulders. Glod? Glod jumped. Yes? What?

  Why are we here? We know the place exists now-

  Grab some ceiling, hooligans! Glod blinked at the crossbow bolt pricking the end of his nose, and raised his hands. The old lady had gone from asleep to firing stance without apparently passing through any

  intermediate stage. This is the best I can do, he said. Er . . . the door wasnt locked, you see, and . . .

  So you thought you could rob a poor defenceless old lady?

  Not at all, not at all, in fact we-

  I belongs to the Neighbourhood Witch scheme, I do! One word from me and youll be hopping around looking for some princess with an amphibian fixation-

  I think dis has gone far enough, said Cliff. He reached down and his huge hand closed over the bow. He squeezed. Bits of wood oozed between his fingers. Were quite harmless, he said. Weve come about the instrument you sold our friend last week.

 
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