Soul music, p.4
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       Soul Music, p.4

         Part #16 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
 
Page 4

 

  many things in the world that need doing that people dont want to do and were grateful to Mr Clete for doing for them. Keeping minutes, for example. Making sure the membership roll was quite up to date. Filing. Organizing. Hed worked hard on behalf of the Thieves Guild, although he hadnt been a thief, at least in the sense normally meant. Then thered been a rather more senior vacancy in the Fools Guild, and Mr Clete was no fool. And finally there had been the secretaryship of the Musicians. Technically, he should have been a musician. So he bought a comb and paper. Since up until that time the Guild had been run by real musicians, and therefore the membership roll was unrolled and hardly anyone had paid any dues lately and the organization owed several thousand dollars to Chrysoprase the troll at punitive interest, he didnt even have to audition. When Mr Clete had opened the first of the unkempt ledgers and looked at the unorganized mess, he had felt a deep and wonderful feeling. Since then, hed never looked back. He had spent a long time looking down. And although the Guild had a president and council, it also had Mr Clete, who took the minutes and made sure things ran smoothly and smiled very quietly to himself. It is a strange but reliable fact that whenever men throw off the yoke of tyrants and set out to rule themselves there emerges, like a mushroom after rain, Mr Clete. Hat. Hat. Hat. Mr Clete laughed at things in inverse proportion to the actual humour of the situation. But thats nonsense!

  Welcome to the wonderful world of the Guild economy, said Mr Clete. Hat. Hat. Hat.

  What happens if we pllay without belonging to the Guilld, then? said Imp. Do you confiscate our instruments?

  To start with, said the president. And then we sort of give them back to you. Hat. Hat. Hat. Incidentally . . . youre not elvish, are you?

  Seventy-five dollars is criminall, said Imp, as they plodded along the evening streets. Worse than criminal, said Glod. I hear the Thieves Guild just charges a percentage.

  And dey give you a proper Guild membership and everything, Lias rumbled. Even a pension. And dey have a day trip to Quirm and a picnic every year.

  Music should be free, said Imp. So what we going to do now? said Lias. Anyone got any money? said Glod. Got a dollar, said Lias. Got some pennies, said Imp. Then were going to have a decent meal, said Glod. Right here. He pointed up at a sign. Gimlets Hole Food? said Lias. Gimlet? Sounds dwarfish. Vermincelli and stuff?

  Now hes doing troll food too, said Glod. Decided to put aside ethnic differences in the cause of making more money. Five types of coal, seven types of coke and ash, sediments to make you dribble. Youll like it.

  Dwarf bread too? said Imp. You like dwarf bread? said Glod. Llove it; said Imp. What, proper dwarf bread? said Glod. You sure?

  Yes. Its nice and crunchy, see. Glod shrugged. That proves it, he said. No-one who likes dwarf bread can be elvish. The place was almost empty. A dwarf in an apron that came up to its armpits watched them over the top of the counter. You do fried rat? said Glod. Best damn fried rat in the city, said Gimlet. OK. Give me four fried rats.

  And some dwarf bread, said Imp. And some coke, said Lias patiently. You mean rat heads or rat legs?

  No. Four fried rats.

  And some coke.

  You want ketchup on those rats?

  No.

  You sure?

  No ketchup.

  And some coke.

  And two hard-boilled eggs, said Imp. The others gave him an odd look. Wellll? I just like hard-boilled eggs, he said. And some coke.

  And two hard-boiled eggs.

  And some coke.

  Seventy-five dollars, said Glod, as they sat down. Whats three times seventy-five dollars?

  Many dollars, said Lias. More than two hundred dollllars, said Imp. I dont think Ive even seen two hundred dollars, said Glod. Not while Ive been awake.

  We raise money? said Lias. We cant raise money by being musicians, said Imp. Its the Guild Raw. If they catch you, they take your instrument and shove- He stopped. Llets just say its not much fun for the piccollo pllayer, he added from memory. I shouldnt think the trombonist is very happy either, said Glod, putting some pepper on his rat. I cant go back home now, said Imp. I said Id. . . I cant go back home yet. Even if I could, Id have to raise monolliths llike my brothers. Allll they care about is stone circlles.

  If I go back home now, said Lias, Ill be clubbing druids. They both, very carefully, sidled a little further away from each other. Then we play somewhere where the Guild wont find us, said Glod cheerfully. We find a club somewhere-

  Got a club, said Lias, proudly. Got a nail in it.

  I mean a night club, said Glod. Still got a nail in it at night.

  I happen to know, said Glod, abandoning that line of conversation, that theres a lot of places in the city that dont like paying Guild rates. We could do a few gigs and raise the money with no trouble.

  Allll three of us together? said Imp. Sure.

  But we pllay dwarf music and human music and trollll music, said Imp. Im not sure theyllll go together. I mean, dwarfs llisten to dwarf music, humans llisten to human music, trolllls Ilisten to trollll music. What do we get if we mix it allll together? Itd be dreadfull.

  Were getting along OK, said Lias, getting up and fetching the salt from the counter. Were musicians, said Glod. Its not the same with real people.

  Yeah, right, said the troll. Lias sat down. There was a cracking noise. Lias stood up. Oh, he said. Imp reached over. Slowly and with great care he picked the remains of his harp off the bench.

  Oh, said Lias. A string curled back with a sad little sound. It was like watching the death of a kitten. I won that at the Eisteddfod, said Imp. Could you glue it back together? said Glod, eventually. Imp shook his head. Theres no-one left in Llamedos who knows how, see.

  Yes, but in the Street of Cunning Artificers-

  Im real sorry. I mean real sorry, I dont know how it got dere.

  It wasnt your faullt. Imp tried, ineffectually, to fit a couple of pieces together. But you couldnt repair a musical instrument. He remembered the old bards saying that. They had a soul. All instruments had a soul. If they were broken, the soul of them escaped, flew away like a bird. What was put together again was just a thing, a mere assemblage of wood and wire. It would play, it might even deceive the casual listener, but . . . You might as well push someone over a cliff and then stitch them together and expect them to come alive. Um . . . maybe we could get you another one, then? said Glod. Theres . . . a nice little music shop in The Backs- He stopped. Of course there was a nice little music shop in The Backs. It had always been there. In The Backs, he repeated, just to make sure. Bound to get one there. In The Backs. Yes. Been there years.

  Not one of these, said Imp. Before a craftsman even touches the wood he has to spend two weeks sitting wrapped in a bullllock hide in a cave behind a waterfallll.

  Why?

  I dont know. Its traditionall. He has to get his mind pure of allll distractions.

  Theres bound to be something else, though, said Glod. Well buy something. You cant be a musician without an instrument.

  I havent got any money, said Imp. Glod slapped him on the back. That doesnt matter, he said. Youve got friends! Well help you! Least we can do.

  But we allll spent everything we had on this meall. Theres no more money, said Imp. Thats a negative way of looking at it, said Glod. Wellll, yes. We havent got any, see?

  Ill sort out something, said Glod. Im a dwarf. We know about money. Knowing about money is practically my middle name.

  Thats a long middle name. It was almost dark when they reached the shop, which was right opposite the high walls of Unseen University. It looked the kind of musical instrument emporium which doubles as a pawnshop, since every musician has at some time in his life to hand over his instrument if he wants to eat and sleep indoors. You ever bought anything in here? said Lias. No . . . not that I remember, said Glod. It shut, said Lias. Glod hammered on the door. After a while it opened a crack, just enough to reveal a thin slice of face
belonging to an old woman. We want to buy an instrument, maam, said Imp. One eye and a slice of mouth looked him up and down. You human?

  Yes, maam.

  All right, then. The shop was lit by a couple of candles. The old woman retired to the safety of the counter, where she watched them very carefully for any signs of murdering her in her bed. The trio moved carefully amongst the merchandise. It seemed that the shop had accumulated its stock from unclaimed pledges over the centuries. Musicians were often short of money; it was one definition of a musician. There were battle horns. There were lutes. There were drums. This is junk, said Imp under his breath. Glod blew the dust off a crumhorn and put it to his lips, achieving a sound like the ghost of a refried bean. I reckon theres a dead mouse in here, he said, peering into the depths. It was all right before you blew it, snapped the old woman. There was an avalanche of cymbals from the other end of the shop. Sorry, Lias called out. Glod opened the lid of an instrument that was entirely unfamiliar to Imp. It revealed a row of keys; Glod ran his stumpy fingers over them, producing a sequence of sad, tinny notes. What is it? whispered Imp. A virginal, said the dwarf. Any good to us?

  Shouldnt think so. Imp straightened up. He felt that he was being watched. The old lady was watching, but there was something else . . . Its no use. Theres nothing here, he said loudly. Hey, what was that? said Glod. I said theres-

  I heard something.

  What?

  There it is again. There was a series of crashes and thumps behind them as Lias liberated a double-bass from a drift of old music-stands and tried to blow down the sharp bit. There was a funny sound when you spoke, said Glod. Say something. Imp hesitated, as people do when, after having used a language all their lives, theyre told to say something. Imp? he said. WHUM-Whum-whum. It came from- WHAA-Whaa-whaa. Glod lifted aside a pile of ancient sheet-music. There was a musical graveyard behind it, including a skinless drum, a set of Lancre bagpipes without the pipes and a single maraca, possibly for use by a Zen flamenco dancer. And something else. The dwarf pulled it out. It looked, vaguely, like a guitar carved out of a piece of ancient wood by a blunt stone chisel. Although dwarfs did not, as a rule, play stringed instruments, Glod knew a guitar when he saw one. They were supposed to be shaped like a woman, but this was only the case if you thought women had no legs, a long neck and too many ears. Imp? he said. Yes? Whauauaum. The sound had a saw-edged, urgent fringe to it. There were twelve strings, but the body of the instrument was solid wood, not at all hollow it was more or less just a shape to hold the strings.

  It resonated to your voice, said Glod. How can-? Whaum-wha. Glod clamped his hand over the strings, and beckoned the other two closer. Were right by the University here, he whispered. Magic leaks out. Its a well-known fact. Or maybe some wizard pawned it. Dont look a gift rat in the mouth. Can you play a guitar? Imp went pale. You mean like . . . follk music? He took the instrument. Folk music was not approved of in Llamedos, and the singing of it was rigorously discouraged; it was felt that anyone espying a fair young maiden one morning in May was entitled to take whatever steps they considered appropriate without someone writing it down. Guitars were frowned upon as being, well . . . too easy. Imp struck a chord. It created a sound quite unlike anything hed heard before - there were resonances and odd echoes that seemed to run and hide among the instrumental debris and pick up additional harmonics and then bounce back again. It made his spine itch. But you couldnt be even the worst musician in the world without some kind of instrument . . . Right, said Glod. He turned to the old woman. You dont call this a music instrument, do you? he demanded. Look at it, half of its not even there.

 
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