Soul music, p.39
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       Soul Music, p.39

         Part #16 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
 
Page 39

 

  Some righteous ass, sir, said Ponder. He says kick some righteous ass. Ridcully peered at the empty stage. I dont see one, he said. The four members of The Band sat up and stared straight ahead, over the moonlit plain. Finally Cliff broke the silence. How much?

  Best part of five thousand dollars-

  FIVE THOUSAND DOL-?

  Cliff clamped his huge hand over Glods mouth. Why? said Cliff, as the dwarf squirmed. MMF MMFMMF MMFMMFS?

  I got a bit confused, said Asphalt. Sorry.

  Well never get far enough, said Cliff. You know dat? Not even if we die.

  I tried to tell you all! Asphalt moaned. Maybe . . . maybe we could take it back?

  MMF MMF MMF?

  How can we do dat?

  MMF MMF MMF?

  Glod, said Cliff, in a reasonable tone of voice, Im going to take my hand away. And youre not to shout. Right?

  Mmf.

  OK.

  TAKE IT BACK? FIVE THOUSAND DOL-mmfmmfmmf-

  I suppose some of dat is ours, said Cliff, tightening his grip. Mmf!

  I know I havent had any wages, said Asphalt. Lets get to Quirm, said Buddy urgently. We can take out whats . . . ours and send the rest back to him. Cliff scratched his chin with his free hand. Some of it belongs to Chrysoprase, said Asphalt. Mr Dibbler borrowed some money offf him to set up the Festival.

  We wont get away from him, said Cliff, except if we drive all the way to the Rim and chuck ourselves over. And even den, only maybe.

  We could explain . . . couldnt . . . we? said Asphalt. A vision of Chrysoprases gleaming marble head formed in their vision. `Mmf. No. Quirm, then, said Buddy. Cliffs diamond teeth glittered in the moonlight. I thought . . . he said, I thought . . . I heard something on the road back there. Sounded like harness- The invisible beggars began to wander away from the park. Foul Ole Rons Smell had stayed on for a while, because it was enjoying the music. And Mr Scrub still hadnt moved. We got nearly twenty sausages, said Arnold Sideways. Coffin Henry coughed a cough with bones in it. Buggrem? said Foul Ole Ron. I told em, spyin on me with rays! Something bounded across the trodden turf towards Mr Scrub, ran up his robe and grabbed either side of his hood with both paws. There was the hollow sound of two skulls meeting. Mr Scrub staggered backwards. SQUEAK! Mr Scrub blinked and sat down suddenly. The beggars stared down at the little figure jumping up and down on the cobbles. Being of an invisible nature themselves, they were naturally good at seeing things unseen by other men or, in the case of Foul Ole Ron, by any known eyeball. Thats a rat, said the Duck Man. Buggrit, said Foul Ole Ron. The rat pranced in circles on its hind legs, squeaking loudly. Mr Scrub blinked again . . . And Death stood up.

  I HAVE TO GO, he said. SQUEAK! Death strode away, stopped, and came back. He pointed a skeletal finger at the Duck Man. WHY, he said, ARE YOU WALKING AROUND WITH THAT DUCK? What duck? AH. SORRY. Listen, how can it go wrong? said Crash, waving his hands frantically. Its got to work. Everyone knows that when you get your big chance because the star is ill or something, then the audiencell go mad for you. It happens every time, right? Jimbo, Noddy and Scum peered around the curtain at the pandemonium. They nodded uncertainly. Of course things always went well when you had your big chance . . . We could do “Anarchy in Ankh-Morpork”, said Jimbo doubtfully. We havent got that right, said Noddy. Yeah, but theres nothing new about that.

  I suppose we could give it a try . . . Excellent! said Crash. He raised his guitar defiantly. We can do it! For the sake of sex and drugs and Music With Rocks In! He was aware of their disbelieving stares. You never said youd had any drugs, said Jimbo accusingly. If it comes to that, said Noddy, I dont reckon youve ever had-

  One out of three aint bad! shouted Crash. Yes it is, its only thirty-three per-

  Shut up! People were stamping their feet and clapping their hands derisively. Ridcully squinted along his staff. There was the Holy St Bobby, he said. I suppose he was a righteous ass, come to think about it.

  Sorry? said Ponder. He was a donkey, said Ridcully. Hundreds of years ago. Got made a bishop in the Omnian church for carrying some holy man, I believe. Cant get more righteous than that.

  No . . . no . . . no . . . Archchancellor, said Ponder. Its just a sort of military saying. It means . . . the . . . you know, sir . . . backside.

  I wonder how we tell which bit that is, Ridcully said. The creatures from the Dungeon Dimensions have legs and things all over the place.

  I dont know, sir; said Ponder wearily. Perhaps wed just better kick everything, to be on the safe side. Death caught up with the rat near the Brass Bridge. No-one had disturbed Albert. Since he was in the gutter, hed become nearly as invisible as Coffin Henry. Death rolled his sleeve up. His hand moved through the fabric of Alberts coat as if it was mist. DAFT OLD FOOL ALWAYS TOOK IT WITH HIM, he muttered. I CANT IMAGINE WHAT HE THOUGHT ID DO WITH IT . . . The hand came out, cupping a fragment of curved glass. A pinch of sand glittered on it. THIRTY-FOUR SECONDS, said Death. He handed the glass to the rat. FIND SOMETHING TO PUT THIS IN. AND DONT DROP IT. He stood up and surveyed the world. There was the glong-glong-glong noise of an empty beer bottle bouncing on the stones as the Death of Rats trotted back out of the Mended Drum.

  Thirty-four seconds of sand orbited slightly erratically inside it. Death hauled his servant to his feet. No time was passing for Albert. His eyes were glazed, his bodyclock idled. He hung from his masters arm like a cheap suit. Death snatched the bottle from the rat and tilted it gently. A bit of life began to flow. WHERE IS MY GRANDDAUGHTER? he said. YOU HAVE TO TELL ME. OTHERWISE I CANT KNOW. Alberts eyes clicked open. Shes trying to save the boy, Master! he said. She doesnt know the meaning of the word Duty- Death tipped the bottle back. Albert froze in midsentence. BUT WE DO, DONT WE? said Death bitterly. YOU AND ME. He nodded to the Death of Rats. LOOK AFTER HIM, he said. Death snapped his fingers. Nothing happened, apart from the click. ER. THIS IS VERY EMBARRASSING. SHE HAS SOME OF MY POWER. I DO SEEM MOMENTARILY UNABLE TO . . . ER . . . The Death of Rats squeaked helpfully. NO. YOU LOOK AFTER HIM. I KNOW WHERE THEYRE GOING. HISTORY LIKES CYCLES. Death looked at the towers of Unseen University, rising over the rooftops. AND SOMEWHERE IN THIS TOWN IS A HORSE I CAN RIDE. Hold on. Somethings coming . . . at the stage. What are they? Ponder stared. I think . . . they may be human, sir. The crowd had stopped stamping its collective feet and was watching in a sullen this had better be good silence. Crash stepped forward with a big mad glossy grin on his face. Yes, but any minute theyll split down the middle and gharstely creatures will come out, said Ridcully hopefully. Crash hefted his guitar and played a chord. My word! said Ridcully. Sir?

  That sounded exactly like a cat trying to go to the lavatory through a sewn-up bum. Ponder looked aghast. Sir, youre not telling me you ever-

  No, but thats what itd sound like, sure enough. Exactly like that. The crowd hovered, uncertain of this new development. Hello, Ankh-Morpork! said Crash. He nodded at Scum, who hit his drums at the second attempt. Ande Supporting Bandes launched into its first and, in the event, last number. Three last numbers, in fact. Crash was trying for Anarchy in Ankh-Morpork, Jimbo had frozen because he couldnt see himself in a mirror and was playing the only page he could remember from Blert Wheedowns book, which was the index, and Noddy had got his fingers caught in the strings. As far as Scum was concerned, tunes names were things that happened to other people. He was concentrating on the rhythm. Most people dont have to. But Ridcully glared for Scum, even clapping his hands was an exercise in concentration. So he played in a small contented world of his own, and didnt even notice the audience rise like a bad meal and hit the stage. Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs were on duty at the Deosil Gate, sharing a comradely

  cigarette and listening to the distant roar of the Festival. Sounds like a big night, said Sergeant Colon. Right enough, sarge.

  Sounds like some trouble.

  Good job were out of it, sarge. A horse came clattering up the street, its rider struggling to keep on. As it got closer they m
ade out the contorted features of C. M. O. T. Dibbler, riding with the ease of a sack of potatoes. Did a cart just go through here? he demanded. Which one, Throat? said Sergeant Colon. What do you mean, which one?

  Well, there was two, said the sergeant. One with a couple of trolls in, and one with Mr Clete just after that. You know, the Musicians Guild-

  Oh, no! Dibbler pummelled the horse into action again and bounced off into the night. What was that about? said Nobby. Someone probably owes him a penny, said Sergeant Colon, leaning on his spear. There was the sound of another horse approaching. The watchmen flattened themselves against the wall as it thundered past. It was big, and white. The riders black cloak streamed in the air, as did her hair. There was a rush of wind and then they were gone, out on to the plains. Nobby stared after it. That was her, he said. Susan Death. The light in the crystal faded to a dot and winked out. Thats three days worth of magic I wont see again, the Senior Wrangler complained. Worth every thaum, said the Chair of Indefinite Studies. Not as good as seeing them live, though, said the Lecturer in Recent Runes. Theres something about the way the sweat drips on you.

  I thought it ended just as it was getting good, said the Chair. I thought- The wizards went rigid as the howl rang through the building. It was slightly animal but also mineral, metallic, edged like a saw. Eventually the Lecturer in Recent Runes said, Of course, just because weve heard a spine- chilling bloodcurdling scream of the sort to make your very marrow freeze in your bones doesnt automatically mean theres anything wrong. The wizards looked out into the corridor. It came from downstairs somewhere, said the Chair of Indefinite Studies, heading for the staircase. So why are you going upstairs?

  Because Im not daft!

  But it might be some terrible emanation!

  You dont say? said the Chair, still accelerating. All right, please yourself. Thats the students floor up there.

  Ah. Er- The Chair came down slowly, occasionally glancing fearfully up the stairs. Look, nothing can get in, said the Senior Wrangler. This place is protected by very powerful spells.

  Thats right, said Recent Runes. And Im sure weve all been strengthening them periodically, as is our duty, said the Senior Wrangler.

  Er. Yes. Yes. Of course, said Recent Runes. The sound came again. There was a slow pulsating rhythm in the roar. The Library, I think, said the Senior Wrangler. Anyone seen the Librarian lately?

  He always seems to be carrying something when I see him. You dont think hes up to something occult, do you?

  This is a magical university.

  Yes, but more occult is what I mean.

  Keep together, will you?

  I am together.

  For if we are united, what can possibly harm us?

  Well, (1), a great big-

  Shut up! The Dean opened the library door. It was warm, and velvety quiet. Occasionally, a book would rustle its pages or clank its chains restlessly. A silvery light was coming from the stairway to the basement. There was also the occasional ook. He doesnt sound very upset, said the Bursar. The wizards crept down the steps. There was no mistaking the door - the light streamed from it. The wizards stepped into the cellar. They stopped breathing. It was on a raised dais in the centre of the floor, with candles all around it. It was Music With Rocks In. A tall dark figure skidded around the corner into Sator Square and, accelerating, pounded through the gateway of Unseen University. It was seen only by Modo the dwarf gardener, as he happily wheeled his manure barrow through the twilight. It had been a good day. Most days were, in his experience. He hadnt heard about the Festival. He hadnt heard about Music With Rocks In. Modo didnt hear about most things, because he wasnt listening. He liked compost. Next to compost he liked roses, because they were something to compost the compost for. He was by nature a contented dwarf, who took in his short stride all the additional problems of gardening in a high magical environment, such as greenfly, whitefly and lurching things with tentacles. Proper lawn maintenance could be a real problem when things from another dimension were allowed to slither over it. Someone pounded across it and disappeared through the doorway of the library. Modo looked at the marks and said, Oh, dear. The wizards started breathing again. Oh, my, said the Lecturer in Recent Runes. Rave In . . . said the Senior Wrangler. Now thats what I call Music With Rocks In, sighed the Dean. He stepped forward with the rapt expression of a miser in a goldmine. The candlelight glittered off black and silver. There was a lot of both. Oh, my, said the Lecturer in Recent Runes. It was like some kind of incantation. I say, isnt that my nose-hair mirror? said the Bursar, breaking the spell. Thats my nose-hair mirror, Im sure- Except that while the black was black the silver wasnt really silver. It was whatever mirrors and bits of shiny tin and tinsel and wire the Librarian had been able to scrounge and bend into shape . . . -its got the little silver frame . . . whys it on that two-wheeled cart? Two wheels, one after

 
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