Soul music, p.3
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       Soul Music, p.3

         Part #16 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
 
Page 3

 

  DETAIL. AS IF IT HAPPENED ONLY YESTERDAY. AS IF IT HAPPENED ONLY TOMMOROW. EVERYTHING. DO YOU UNDERSTAND? The holy man scratched his gleaming bald head. Traditionally, he said, the ways of forgetting include joining the Klatchian Foreign Legion, drinking the waters of some magical river, no-one knows where it is, and imbibing vast amounts of alcohol. AH, YES. But alcohol debilitates the body and is a poison to the soul. SOUNDS GOOD TO ME. Master? The holy man looked around irritably. The acolytes had arrived. Just a minute, Im talking to- The stranger had gone. Oh, master, we have travelled for many miles over- said the acolyte. Shut up a minute, will you? The holy man put out his hand, palm turned vertical, and waved it a few times. He muttered under his breath. The acolytes exchanged glances. They hadnt expected this. Finally, their leader found a drop of courage. Master- The holy man turned and caught him across the ear. The sound this made was definitely a clap. Ah! Got it! said the holy man. Now, what can I do for- He stopped as his brain caught up with his ears. What did he mean, humans? Death walked thoughtfully across the hill to the place where a large white horse was placidly watching the view. He said, GO AWAY. The horse watched him warily. It was considerably more intelligent than most horses, although this was not a difficult achievement. It seemed aware that things werent right with its master. I MAY BE SOME TIME, said Death. And he set out. It wasnt raining in Ankh-Morpork. This had come as a big surprise to Imp. What had also come as a surprise was how fast money went. So far hed lost three dollars and twenty-seven pence. Hed lost it because hed put it in a bowl in front of him while he played, in the same way that a hunter puts out decoys to get ducks. The next time hed looked down, it had gone. People came to Ankh-Morpork to seek their fortune. Unfortunately, other people sought it too. And people didnt seem to want bards, even ones whod won the mistletoe award and centennial harp in the big Eisteddfod in Llamedos. Hed found a place in one of the main squares, tuned up and played. No-one had taken any notice, except sometimes to push him out of the way as they hurried past and, apparently, to nick his bowl. Eventually, just when he was beginning to doubt that hed made the right decision in coming here at all, a couple of watchmen had wandered up. Thats a harp hes playing, Nobby, said one of them, after watching Imp for a while. Lyre.

  No, its the honest truth, Im- The fat guard frowned and looked down. Youve just been waiting all your life to say that, aint you, Nobby, he said. I bet you was born hoping that one day someoned say “Thats a harp” so you could say “lyre”, on account of it being a pun or play on words. Well, har har. Imp stopped playing. It was impossible to continue, in the circumstances. It is a harp, actualllly, he said. I won it in-

  Ah, youre from Llamedos, right? said the fat guard. I can tell by your accent. Very musical people, the Llamedese.

  Sounds like garglin with gravel to me, said the one identified as Nobby. You got a licence, mate?

  Llicence? said Imp. Very hot on licences, the Guild of Musicians, said Nobby. They catch you playing music without a licence, they take your instrument and they shove-

  Now, now, said the other watchman. Dont go scaring the boy.

  Lets just say its not much fun if youre a piccolo player, said Nobby. But surelly music is as free as the air and the sky, see, said Imp. Not round here its not. Just a word to the wise, friend, said Nobby. I never ever heard of a Guilld of Musicians, said Imp. Its in Tin Lid Alley, said Nobby. You want to be a musician, you got to join the Guild. Imp had been brought up to obey the rules. The Llamedese were very law-abiding. I shallll go there directlly, he said. The guards watched him go. Hes wearing a nightdress, said Corporal Nobbs. Bardic robe, Nobby, said Sergeant Colon. The guards strolled onwards. Very bardic, the Llamedese.

  How long dyou give him, sarge? Colon waved a hand in the flat rocking motion of someone hazarding an informed guess. Two, three days, he said. They rounded the bulk of Unseen University and ambled along The Backs, a dusty little street that saw little traffic or passing trade and was therefore much favoured by the Watch as a place to lurk and have a smoke and explore the realms of the mind. You know salmon, sarge, said Nobby. It is a fish of which I am aware, yes.

  You know they sell kind of slices of it in tins . . .

  So I am given to understand, yes.

  Weell . . . how come all the tins are the same size? Salmon gets thinner at both ends.

  Interesting point, Nobby. I think- The watchman stopped, and stared across the street. Corporal Nobbs followed his gaze. That shop, said Sergeant Colon. That shop there . . . was it there yesterday? Nobby looked at the peeling paint, the little grime-encrusted window, the rickety door. "Course, he said. Its always been there. Been there years. Colon crossed the street and rubbed at the grime. There were dark shapes vaguely visible in the gloom. Yeah, right, he mumbled. Its just that . . . I mean . . . was it there for years yesterday?

  You ail right, sarge?

  Lets go, Nobby, said the sergeant, walking away as fast as he could. Where, sarge?

  Anywhere not here. In the dark mounds of merchandise, something felt their departure. Imp had already admired the Guild buildings - the majestic frontage of the Assassins Guild, the splendid columns of the Thieves Guild, the smoking yet still impressive hole where the Alchemists Guild had been up until yesterday. And it was therefore disappointing to find that the Guild of Musicians, when he eventually located it, wasnt even a building. It was just a couple of poky rooms above a barber shop. He sat in the brown-walled waiting room, and waited. There was a sign on the wall opposite. It said For Your Comforte And Convenience YOU WILL NOT SMOKE. Imp had never smoked in his life. Everything in Llamedos was too soggy to smoke. But he suddenly felt inclined to try. The rooms only other occupants were a troll and a dwarf. He was not at ease in their company. They kept looking at him. Finally the dwarf said, Are you elvish?

  Me? No!

  You look a bit elvish around the hair.

  Not ellvish at allll. Honestlly.

  Where you from? said the troll. Llamedos, said Imp. He shut his eyes. He knew what trolls and dwarfs traditionally did to people suspected of being elves. The Guild of Musicians could take lessons. What dat you got dere? said the troll. It had two large squares of darkish glass in front of its eyes, supported by wire frames hooked around its ears. Its a harp, see.

  Dat what you play?

  Yes.

  You a druid, den?

  No! There was silence again as the troll marshalled its thoughts. You look like a druid in dat nightie, it rumbled, after a while.

  The dwarf on the other side of Imp began to snigger. Trolls disliked druids, too. Any sapient species which spends a lot of time in a stationary, rock-like pose objects to any other species which drags it sixty miles on rollers and buries it up to its knees in a circle. It tends to feel it has cause for disgruntlement. Everyone dresses like this in Llamedos, see, said Imp. But Im a bard! Im not a druid. I hate rocks!

  Whoops, said the dwarf quietly. The troll looked Imp up and down, slowly and deliberately. Then it said, without any particular trace of menace, You not long in dis town?

  Just arrived, said Imp. I wont even reach the door, he thought. Im going to be mashed into a pullp. Here is some free advice what you should know. It is free advice I am giving you gratis for nothing. In dis town, “rock” is a word for troll. A bad word for troll used by stupid humans. You call a troll a rock, you got to be prepared to spend some time looking for your head. Especially if you looks a bit elvish around de ears. Dis is free advice cos you are a bard and maker of music, like me.

  Right! Thank you! Yes! said Imp, awash with relief. He grabbed his harp and played a few notes. That seemed to lighten the atmosphere a bit. Everyone knew elves had never been able to play music. Lias Bluestone, said the troll, extending something massive with fingers on it. Imp y Celyn, said Imp. Nothing to do with moving rocks around at allll in any way! A smaller, more knobbly hand was thrust at Imp from another direction. His gaze travelled up its associated arm, which was the property of the dw
arf. He was small, even for a dwarf. A large bronze horn lay across his knees. Glod Glodsson, said the dwarf. You just play the harp?

  Anything with strings on it, said Imp. But the harp is the queen of instruments, see.

  I can blow anything, said Glod. Realllly? said Imp. He sought for some polite comment. That must make you very popullar. The troll heaved a big leather sack off the floor. Dis is what I play, he said. A number of large round rocks tumbled out on to the floor. Lias picked one up and flicked it with a finger. It went bam. Music made from rocks? said Imp. What do you callll it?

  We call it Ggroohauga, said Lias, which means, music made from rocks. The rocks were all of different sizes, carefully tuned here and there by small nicks carved out of the stone. May I? said Imp. Be my guest. Imp selected a small rock and flicked it with his finger. It went bop. A smaller one went bing. What do you do with them? he said. I bang them together.

  And then what?

  What do you mean, “And then what?”

  What do you do after youve banged them together?

  I bang them together again, said Lias, one of natures drummers. The door to the inner room opened and a man with a pointed nose peered around it. You lot together? he snapped. There was indeed a river, according to legend, one drop of which would rob a man of his memory. Many people assumed that this was the river Ankh, whose waters can be drunk or even cut up and chewed. A drink from the Ankh would quite probably rob a man of his memory, or at least cause things to happen to him that he would on no account wish to recall. In fact there was another river that would do the trick. There was, of course, a snag. No-one knows where it is, because theyre always pretty thirsty when they find it. Death turned his attention elsewhere. Seventy-five dollllars? said Imp. Just to pllay music?

  Thats twenty-five dollars registration fee, twenty per cent of fees, and fifteen dollars voluntary compulsory annual subscription to the Pension Fund, said Mr Clete, secretary of the Guild. But we havent got that much money! The man gave a shrug which indicated that, although the world did indeed have many problems, this was one of them that was not his. But maybe we shallll be ablle to pay when weve earned some, said Imp weakly. If you could just, you know, llet us have a week or two-

  Cant let you play anywhere without you being members of the Guild, said Mr Clete. But we cant be members of the Guild until weve played, said Glod. Thats right, said Mr Clete cheerfully. Hat. Hat. Hat. It was a strange laugh, totally mirthless and vaguely birdlike. It was very much like its owner, who was what you would get if you extracted fossilized genetic material from something in amber and then gave it a suit. Lord Vetinari had encouraged the growth of the Guilds. They were the big wheels on which the clockwork of a well-regulated city ran. A drop of oil here . . . a spoke inserted there, of course . . . and by and large it all worked. And gave rise, in the same way that compost gives rise to worms, to Mr Clete. He was not, by the standard definitions, a bad man; in the same way a plague-bearing rat is not, from a dispassionate point of view, a bad animal. Mr Clete worked hard for the benefit of his fellow men. He devoted his life to it. For there are

 
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