Soul Music Page 19

the guitar hooted and screamed and sang out the melody. The wizards were bouncing in their seats and twirling their fingers in the air. Ridcully leaned over to the Bursar and screamed at him. 'What?' shouted the Bursar. 'I said, they've all gone mad except me and you!'


'It's the music!'

'Yes! It's great!' said the Bursar, waving his skinny hands in the air. 'And I'm not too certain about you!' Ridcully sat down again and pulled out the thaumometer. It was vibrating crazily, which was no help at all. It didn't seem to be able to decide if this was magic or not. He nudged the Bursar sharply. 'This ain't magic! This is something else!'

'You're exactly right!' Ridcully had the feeling that he suddenly wasn't speaking the right language. 'I mean it's too much!'

'Yes!' Ridcully sighed. 'Is it time for your dried frog pill?' Smoke was coming out of the stricken piano. The Librarian's hands were walking through the keys like Casanunda in a nunnery. Ridcully looked around. He felt all alone. Someone else hadn't been overcome by the music. Satchelmouth had stood up. So had his two associates. They had drawn some knobbly clubs. Ridcully knew the Guild laws. Of course, they had to be enforced. You couldn't run a city without them. This certainly wasn't licensed music - if ever there was unlicensed music, this was it. Nevertheless . . . he rolled up his sleeve and prepared a quick fireball, just in case. One of the men dropped his club and clutched his foot. The other one spun around as if something had slapped his ear. Satchelmouth's hat dented, as if someone had just hit him on the head. Ridcully, one eye watering terribly, thought he made out the Tooth Fairy girl bringing the handle of a scythe down on Satchelmouth's head. The Archchancellor was quite a bright man but often had trouble in forcing his train of thought to change tracks. He was having difficulty with the idea of a scythe, after all, grass didn't have teeth - and then the fireball burned his fingers, and then, as he sucked frantically at them, he realized that there was something in the sound. Something extra. 'Oh, no,' he said, as the fireball floated to the floor and set fire to the Bursar's boot, 'it's alive.' He grabbed the beer mug, finished the contents hurriedly, and rammed it upside down on the tabletop. The moon shone over the Klatchian desert, in the vicinity of the dotted line. Both sides of it got exactly the same amount of moonlight, although minds like Mr Clete's deplored this state of affairs. The sergeant strolled across the packed sand of the parade ground. He stopped, sat down, and produced a cheroot. Then he pulled out a match, reached down and struck it on something sticking out of the sand, which said: GOOD EVENING. 'I expect you've had enough, eh, soldier?' said the sergeant. ENOUGH WHAT, SERGEANT? 'Two days in the sun, no food, no water . . . I expect you're delirious with thirst and are just

begging to be dug out, eh?' YES. IT IS CERTAINLY VERY DULL. 'Dull?' I AM AFRAID SO. 'Dull? It's not meant to be dull! It's the Pit! It's meant to be a horrible physical and mental torture! After one day of it you're supposed to by a . . .' The sergeant glanced surreptitiously at some writing on his wrist, '. . . a raving madman! I've been watching you all day! You haven't even groaned! I can't sit in my . . . thing, you sit in it, there's papers and things . . .' OFFICE. '. . . working, with you outside like this! I can't bear it!' Beau Nidle glanced upwards. He felt it was time for a kindly gesture. HELP, HELP. HELP, HELP, he said. The sergeant sagged with relief. THIS ASSISTS PEOPLE TO FORGET, DOES IT? 'Forget? People forget everything when they're given' THE PIT. 'Yes! That's it!' AH. DO YOU MIND IF I ASK A QUESTION? 'What?. DO YOU MIND IF PERHAPS I HAVE ANOTHER DAY? The sergeant opened his mouth to reply, and the D'regs attacked over the nearest sand-dune. 'Music?' said the Patrician. 'Ah. Tell me more.' He leaned back in an attitude that suggested attentive listening. He was extremely good at listening. He created a kind of mental suction. People told him things just to avoid the silence. Besides, Lord Vetinari, the supreme ruler of Ankh-Morpork, rather liked music. People wondered what sort of music would appeal to such a man. Highly formalized chamber music, possibly, or thunder-andlightning opera scores. In fact the kind of music he really liked was the kind that never got played. It ruined music, in his opinion, to torment it by involving it on dried skins, bits of dead cat and lumps of metal hammered into wires and tubes. It ought to stay written down, on the page, in rows of little dots and crotchets, all neatly caught between lines. Only there was it pure. It was when people started doing things with it that the rot set in. Much better to sit quietly in a room and read the sheets, with nothing between yourself and the mind of the composer but a scribble of ink. Having it played by sweaty fat men and people with hair in their ears and spit dribbling out of the end of their oboe . . . well, the idea made him shudder. Although not much, because he never did anything to extremes. So... 'And then what happened?' he said. 'An' then he started singin', yerronner,' said Cumbling Michael, licensed beggar and informal informant. 'A song about Great Fiery Balls.' The Patrician raised an eyebrow. 'Pardon?'

'Somethin' like that. Couldn't really make out the words, the reason bein', the piano exploded.'

'Ah? I imagine this interrupted the proceedings somewhat.'

'Nah, the monkey went on playin' what was left,' said Cumbling Michael. 'And people got up and started cheerin' and dancin and stampin' their feet like there was a plague of cockroaches.'

'And you say the men from the Musicians' Guild were hurt?'

'It was dead strange. They were white as a sheet afterwards. At least,' Cumbling Michael thought about the state of his own bedding, 'white as some sheets-'

The Patrician glanced at his reports while the beggar talked. It had certainly been a strange evening. A riot at the Drum . . . well, that was normal, although it didn't sound exactly like a typical riot and he'd never heard of wizards dancing. He rather felt he recognized the signs . . . There was only one thing that could make it worse. 'Tell me,' he said. 'What was Mr Dibbler's reaction to all this?'

'What, yerronner?'

'A simple enough question, I should have thought.' Cumbling Michael found the words 'But how did you know ole Dibbler was there? I never said' arranging themselves for the attention of his larynx, and then had second, third and fourth thoughts about saying them. 'He just sat and stared, yerronner. With his mouth open. And then he rushed right out.'

'I see. Oh, dear. Thank you, Cumbling Michael. Feel free to leave.' The beggar hesitated. 'Foul Ole Ron said as yerronner sometimes pays for information,' he said. 'Did he? Really? He said that, did he? Well, that is interesting.' Vetinari scribbled a note in the margin of a report. 'Thank you.'


'Don't let me detain you.'

'Er. No. Gods bless yerronner,' said Cumbling Michael, and ran for it. When the sound of the beggar's boots had died away the Patrician strolled over to the window, stood with his hands clasped behind his back, and sighed. There were probably city states, he reasoned, where the rulers only had to worry about the little things . . . barbarian invasions, the balance of payments, assassination, the local volcano erupting. There weren't people busily opening the door of reality and metaphorically saying, 'Hi, come on in, pleased to see you, what a nice axe you have there, incidentally, can I make some money out of you since you're here?' Sometimes Lord Vetinari wondered what had happened to Mr Hong. Everyone knew, of course. In general terms. But not exactly what. What a city. In the spring, the river caught fire. About once a month, the Alchemists' Guild exploded. He walked back to his desk and made another brief note. He was rather afraid that he was going to have to have someone killed. Then he picked up the third movement of Fondel's Prelude in G Major and settled back to read. Susan walked back to the alley where she'd left Binky. There were half a dozen men lying around on the cobbles, clutching parts of themselves and moaning. Susan ignored them. Anyone trying to steal Death's horse soon understood the expression 'a world of hurts'. Binky had a good aim. It would be a very small, very private world. 'The music was playing him, not the other way round,' she said. 'You could see. I'm not sure his fingers even touched the strings.' SQUEAK. Susan rubbed her hand. Satchelmouth had turned out to have quite a hard head. 'Can I kill it without killing him?' SQUEAK. 'Not a hope,' the raven translated. 'It's all that's keeping him alive.'

'But Granda . . . but he said it'll end up killing him anyway!'

'It's a big wide wonderful universe all right,' said the raven. SQUEAK. 'But . . . look, if it's a . . . a parasite, or something like that,' said Susan, as Binky trotted skywards, 'what's the good of it killing its host?'

SQUEAK. 'He says you've got him there,' said the raven. 'Drop me off over Quirm, will you?'

'What does it want him for?' said Susan. 'It's using him, but what for?'

'Twenty-seven dollars!' said Ridcully. 'Twenty-seven dollars .to get you out! And the sergeant kept grinning all the time! Wizards arrested!' He walked along the row of crestfallen figures. 'I mean, how often does the Watch get called in to the Drum?' said Ridcully. 'I mean, what did you think you were doing?'

'mumblemumblemumble,' said the Dean, looking at the floor. 'I'm sorry?'


'Dancing,' said Ridcully levelly, walking back along the row. 'That's dancing, is it? Banging into people? Throwin' one another over yer shoulders? Twirling around all over the place? Not even trolls act like that (not that I've got anything against trolls mind you marvellous people marvellous people) and you're supposed to be wizards. People are supposed to look up to you and that's not because you're somersaulting over their heads, Runes, don't think I didn't notice that little display, I was frankly disgusted. The poor Bursar has had to have a lie down. Dancing is . . . round in circles, don'tcherknow, Maypoles and suchlike, healthy reels, perhaps a little light ballroom . . . not swinging people round like a dwarf with a battleaxe (mind you salt of the earth dwarfs I've always said so). Do I make myself clear?'

'mumblemumblemumbleeveryonewasdoingitmumble,' said the Dean, still looking at the floor. 'I never thought I'd say this to any wizard over the age of eighteen, but you're all gated until further notice!' shouted Ridcully. Being confined to the campus was not much of a punishment. The wizards usually distrusted any air that hadn't hung around indoors for a while, and mostly lived in a kind of groove between their rooms and the dining table. But they were feeling strange. 'mumblemumbledon'tseewhymumble,' mumbled the Dean. He said, much later on, on the day when the music died, that it must have been because he'd never been really young, or at least young while just being old enough to know he was young. Like most wizards, he'd begun his training while still so small that the official pointy hat came down over his ears. And after that he'd just been, well, a wizard. He had the feeling, once again, that he'd missed out on something somewhere. He'd never really realized it until the last couple of days. He didn't know what it was. He just wanted to do things. He didn't know what they were. But he wanted to do them soon. He wanted . . . he felt like a lifelong tundra dweller when he wakes up one morning with a deep urge to go water-skiing. He certainly wasn't going to stay indoors when there was music in the air . . . 'mumblemumblemumblenotgonnastayindoorsmumble.' Unaccustomed feelings surged through him. He wanted to disobey! Disobey everything! Including the law of gravity. He was definitely not going to fold his clothes before going to bed! Ridcully was going to say, oh, you're a rebel, are you, what are you rebelling against, and he'd say . . . he'd say something pretty damn memorable, that's what he'd do! He was But the Archchancellor had stalked off. 'mumblemumblemumble,' said the Dean defiantly, a rebel without a pause. There was a knock at the door, barely audible above the din. Cliff opened it a cautious fraction. 'It's me, Hibiscus. Here's your beers. Drink 'em up and get out!'

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