Soul Music Page 20

'How can we get out?' said Glod. 'Every time they see us they force us to play some more!' Hibiscus shrugged. 'I don't care,' he said. 'But you owe me a dollar for the beer and twenty- five dollars for the broken furniture-'

Cliff shut the door. 'I could negotiate with him,' said Glod. 'No, we can't afford it,' said Buddy. They looked at one another. 'Well, the crowd loved us,' said Buddy. 'I think we were a big success. Er.' In the silence Cliff bit the end off a beer bottle and poured the contents over his head.[18] 'What we all want to know is,' said Glod, 'what you thought you were doing out there?'


'And how come,' said Cliff, crunching up the rest of the bottle, 'we all knew what to play?'


'And also,' said Glod, 'what you were singing.'

'Er... '“Don't Tread On My New Blue Boots”?' said Cliff. 'Gook.'

'“Good Gracious Miss Polly”?' said Glod. 'Er...'

'“Sto Helit Lace”?' said Cliff. 'Gook?'

'It's a kind of very fine lace they make iii the city of Sto Helit,' said Glod. Glod gave Buddy a lopsided look. 'That bit where you said “hello, baby”,' he said. 'Why'd you do that?'


'I mean, it's not as if they even allow small children into the Drum.'

'I don't know. The words were just there,' said Buddy. 'They were sort of part of the music . . .'

'And you were . . . moving about in a funny way. Like you were having trouble with your trousers,' said Glod. 'I'm not expert on humans, of course, but I saw some ladies in the audience looking at you like a dwarf looks at a girl when he knows her father's got a big shaft and several rich seams.'

'Yeah,' said Cliff, 'and like when a troll is thinking: hey, will you look at der strata on dat one . . .'

'You're certain you've got no elvish in you, are you?' said Glod. 'Once or twice I thought you were acting a bit . . . elvish.'

'I don't know what's happening!' said Buddy. The guitar whined. They looked at it. 'What we do is,' said Cliff, 'we take dat and throw it in de river. All those in favour say “Aye”. Or Oook, as the case may be.' There was another silence. No-one rushed to pick up the instrument. 'But the thing is,' said Glod, 'the thing is . . . they did love us out there.' They thought about this. 'It didn't actually feel . . . bad,' said Buddy. 'Got to admit . . . I never had an audience like dat in my whole life,' said Cliff. 'Oook.'

'If we're so good,' said Glod, 'why ain't we rich?' "Cos you do the negotiatin',' said Cliff. 'If we've got to pay for der furniture, I'm soon goin' to have to eat my dinner through a straw.'

'You saying I'm no good?' said Glod, getting angrily to his feet. 'You blow good horn. But you ain't no financial wizard.'

'Hah, I'd just like to see ' There was a knock on the door.

Cliff sighed. 'Dat'll be Hibiscus again,' he said. 'Pass me dat mirror. I'll try to hit one out on de other side.' Buddy opened the door. Hibiscus was there, but behind a smaller man wearing a long coat and a wide, friendly grin. 'Ah,' said the grin. 'You'd be Buddy, right?'

'Er, yes.' And then the man was inside, without actually appearing to have moved, and kicking the door shut in the landlord's face. 'Dibbler's the name,' the grin went on. 'C. M. O. T. Dibbler. I dare say you've heard of me?'


'I ain't talking to you! I'm talking to you other guys.'

'No,' said Buddy, 'I don't think we have.' The grin appeared to widen. 'I hear you boys are in a bit of trouble,' said Dibbler. 'Broken furniture and whatnot.'

'We're not even going to get paid,' said Cliff, glaring at Glod. 'Well now,' said Dibbler, 'it could just be that I could help you there. I'm a businessman. I do business. I can see you boys are musicians. You play music. You don't want to worry your heads about money stuff, right? Gets in the way of the creative processes, am I right? How about if you leave that to me?'

'Huh,' said Glod, still smarting from the insult to his financial acumen. 'And what can you do?'

'Well,' said Dibbler, ' I can get you paid for tonight, for a start.'

'What about the furniture?' said Buddy. 'Oh, stuff gets busted here every night,' said Dibbler expansively. 'Hibiscus was just having you on. I'll square it with him. Confidentially, you want to watch out for people like him.' He leaned forward. If his grin had been any wider the top of his head would have fallen off. 'This city, boys,' he said, 'is a jungle.'

'If he can get us paid, I trust him,' said Glod. 'As simple as dat?' said Cliff. 'I trust anyone who gives me money.' Buddy glanced at the table. He didn't know why, but he had a feeling that if something was wrong the guitar would do something - play a discord, maybe. But it just purred gently to itself. 'Oh, all right. If it means I get to keep my teef, I'm all for it,' said Cliff. 'OK,' said Buddy. 'Great! Great! We can make beautiful music together! At least -you boys can, eh?' He pulled out a sheet of paper and a pencil. In Dibbler's eyes, the lion roared. Somewhere high in the Ramtops, Susan rode Binky over a cloudbank. 'How could he talk like that?' she said. 'Play around with people's lives, and then talk about duty?' All the lights were on in the Musicians' Guild. A gin bottle played a tattoo on the edge of a glass. Then it rattled briefly on the desktop as Satchelmouth put it down. 'Doesn't anyone know who the hells they are?' Mr Clete said, as Satchelmouth managed to grip the glass on the second try. 'Someone must know who they are!'

'Dunno about the boy,' said Satchelmouth. 'No-one's ever seen him before. An' . . . an' . . . well, you know trolls . . . could've been anyone. . .'

'One of them was definitely the Librarian from the University,' said Herbert 'Mr Harpsichord' Shuffle, the Guild's own librarian. 'We can leave him for now,' said Clete.

The others nodded. No-one really wanted to attempt to beat up the Librarian if there was anyone smaller available. 'What about the dwarf?'


'Someone said they thought he was Glod Glodsson. Lives in Phedre Road somewhere-' Clete growled. 'Get some of the lads over there right now. I want the position of musicians in this city explained to them right now. Hat. Hat. Hat.' The musicians hurried through the night, the din of the Mended Drum behind them. 'Wasn't he nice,' said Glod. 'I mean, we haven't just got our pay, but he was so interested he gave us twenty dollars of his own money!'

'I tink what he said,' said Cliff, 'was dat he'd give us twenty dollars with interest.'

'Same thing, isn't it? And he said he could get us more jobs. Did you read the contract?'

'Did you?'

'It was very small writing,' said Glod. He brightened up. 'But there was a lot of it,' he added. 'Bound to be a good contract, with that much writing on it.'

'The Librarian ran away,' said Buddy. 'Oooked a lot, and ran away.'

'Hah! Well, he'll be sorry later on,' said Glod. 'Later on, people'll talk to him and he'll say: I left, you know, before they became famous.'

'He'll say ook.'

'Anyway, that piano's going to need some work.'

'Yeah,' said Cliff. 'Like, I saw once where dis guy made stuff out of matches. He could repair it.' A couple of dollars became two lamb kormas and pitchblende vindaloo at the Curry Gardens, along with a bottle of wine so chemical that even trolls could drink it. 'And after this,' said Glod, as they sat down to wait for the food, 'we'll find somewhere else to stay.'

'What wrong with your place?' said Cliff. 'It's too draughty. It's got a piano-shaped hole in the door.'

'Yes, but you put it there.'

'So what?'

'Won't the landlord object?'

'Of course he'll object. That's what landlords are for. Anyway, we're on the up and up, lads. I can feel it in my water.'

'I thought you were just happy to get paid,' said Buddy. 'Right. Right. But I'm even happier to get paid a lot.' The guitar hummed. Buddy picked it up, and plucked a string. Glod dropped his knife. 'That sounded like a piano!' he said. 'I think it can sound like anything,' said Buddy. 'And now it knows about pianos.'

'Magic,' said Cliff. 'Of course magic,' said Glod. 'That's what I keep saying. A strange old thing found in a dusty old shop one stormy night-'

'It wasn't stormy,' said Cliff. '-it's bound to . . . yes, all right, but it was raining a bit . . . it's bound to be a bit special. I bet if we was to go back now the shop wouldn't be there. And that'd prove it. Everyone knows things bought from shops which aren't there next day are dead mysterious and items of Fate. Fate's smiling on us, could be.'

'Doing something on us,' said Cliff. 'I hope it's smiling.'

'And Mr Dibbler said he'd find us somewhere really special to play tomorrow.'

'Good,' said Buddy. 'We must play.'

'Right,' said Cliff. 'We play all right. It's our job.'

'People should hear our music.'

'Sure.' Cliff looked puzzled. 'Right. Of course. Dat's what we want. And some pay, too.'

'Mr Dibbler'll help us,' said Glod, who was too preoccupied to notice the edge in Buddy's voice. 'He must be very successful. He's got an office in Sator Square. Only very posh businesses can afford that.' A new day dawned. It had hardly finished doing so before Ridcully hurried through the dewy grass of the University gardens and hammered on the door of the High Energy Magic Building. Generally he never went near the place. It wasn't that he didn't understand what it was the young wizards in there were actually doing, but because he strongly suspected that they didn't, either. They seemed to positively enjoy becoming less and less certain about everything and would come in to dinner saying things like 'Wow, we've just overturned Marrowleaf's Theory of Thaumic Imponderability! Amazing!' as if it was something to be proud of, instead of gross discourtesy. And they were always talking about splitting the thaum, the smallest unit of magic. The Archchancellor couldn't see the point. So you had bits all over the place. What good would that do? The universe was bad enough without people poking it. The door opened. 'Oh, it's you, Archchancellor.' Ridcully pushed the door open further. "Morning, Stibbons. Glad to see you're up and about early.' Ponder Stibbons, the faculty's youngest member, blinked at the sky. 'Is it morning already?' he said. Ridcully pushed his way past him and into the HEM. It was unfamiliar ground for a traditional wizard. There wasn't a skull or dribbly candle to be seen; this particular room looked like an alchemist's laboratory had suffered the inevitable explosion and landed in a blacksmith's shop. Nor did he approve of Stibbons's robe. It was the right length but a washed-out greeny-grey, with pockets and toggles and a hood with a bit of rabbit fur around the edge. There weren't any sequins or jewels or mystic symbols anywhere. Just a blodgy stain where Stibbons's pen leaked. 'You ain't been out lately?' said Ridcully. 'No, sir. Er. Should I have been? I've been busy working on my Make-It-Bigger device. You know, I showed you-'[19] 'Right, right,' said Ridcully, looking around. 'Anyone else been working in here?'

'Well . . . there's me, and Tez the Terrible and Skazz and Big Mad Drongo, I think . . .' Ridcully blinked. 'What are they?' he said. And then, from the depths of memory, a horrible answer suggested itself. Only a very specific species had names like that. 'Students?'

'Er. Yes?' said Ponder, backing away. 'That's all right, isn't it? I mean, this is a university . . .' Ridcully scratched his ear. The man was right, of course. You had to have some of the buggers around, there was no getting away from it. Personally, he avoided them .whenever possible, as did the rest of the faculty, occasionally running the other way or hiding behind doors whenever they saw them. The Lecturer in Recent Runes had been known to lock himself in his wardrobe rather than take a tutorial. 'You better fetch 'em,' he said. 'The fact is, I seem to have lost my faculty.'

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