Soul Music Page 21

'For what, Archchancellor?' said Ponder, politely.


'Sorry?' They looked at one another in incomprehension, two minds driving opposite ways up a narrow street and waiting for the other man to reverse first. 'The faculty,' said Ridcully, giving up. 'The Dean and whatnot. Gone totally round the corner. Been up all night, playing guitars and whatnot. The Dean's made himself a coat out of leather.'

'Well, leather is a very practical and functional material-'

'Not the way he's using it,' said Ridcully darkly . . . [. . . the Dean stood back. He'd borrowed a dressmaker's dummy from Mrs Whitlow, the housekeeper. He'd made some changes to the design that had buzzed around his brain. For one thing, a wizard in his very soul is loath to wear any garment that doesn't reach down at least to the ankles, so there was quite a lot of leather. Lots of room for all the studs. He'd started with: DEAN. That had hardly begun to fill the space. After a while he'd added: BORN TO, and left a space because he wasn't quite sure what he'd been born to. BORN TO EAT BIG DINNERS wouldn't be appropriate. After some more bemused thought he'd gone on to: LIVE FATS DIE YO GNU. It wasn't quite right, he could see; he'd turned the material over while he was making the holes for the studs and had sort of lost track of which direction he was going. Of course, it didn't matter which direction you went, just so long as you went. That's what music with rocks in it was all about . . .] . . . 'And Recent Runes is in his room playing drums, and the rest of them have all got guitars, and what the Bursar's done to the bottom of his robe is really strange,' said Ridcully. 'And the Librarian's wandering around the place pinchin' stuff and no-one listens to a word I say.' He stared at the students. It was a worrying sight, and not just because of the natural look of students. Here were some people who, while this damn music was making everyone tap their feet, had stayed indoors all night - working. 'What are you lot doing in here?' he said. 'You . . . what's your name?' The student wizard pinned by Ridcully's pointing finger squirmed anxiously. 'Er. Um. Big Mad Drongo,' he said, twisting the brim of his hat in his hands. 'Big. Mad. Drongo,' said Ridcully. 'That's your name, is it? That's what you've got sewn on your vest?'

'Um. No, Archchancellor.'

'It is...?'

'Adrian Turnipseed, Archchancellor.'

'So why're you called Big Mad Drongo, Mr Turnipseed?' said Ridcully. 'Um . . . um . . .'

'He once drank a whole pint of shandy,' said Stibbons, who had the decency to look embarrassed. Ridcully gave him a carefully blank look. Oh, well. They'd have to do. 'All right, you lot,' he said, 'what do you make of this?' He produced from his robe a Mended Drum beer tankard with a beer mat fastened over the top with a piece of string. 'What have you got in there, Archchancellor?' said Ponder Stibbons. 'A piece of music, lad.'

'Music? But you can't trap music like that.'

'I wish I was a clever bugger like you and knew every damn thing,' said Ridcully. 'That big

flask over there . . . You - Big Mad Adrian -take the top off it, and be ready to slam it down again when I say. Ready with that lid, Mad Adrian . . . right!' There was a brief angry chord as Ridcully pulled the beer mat off the mug and upended it quickly into the flask. Mad Drongo Adrian slammed the lid down, in total terror of the Archchancellor. And then they could hear it . . . a persistent faint beat, rebounding off the inner walls of the glass flask. The students peered in at it. There was something in there. A sort of movement in the air . . . 'I trapped it in the Drum last night.'

'That's not possible,' said Ponder. 'You can't trap music.'

'That isn't Klatchian mist, lad.'

'It's been in that mug since last night?' said Ponder. 'Yes.'

'But that's not possible!' Ponder looked absolutely crestfallen. There are some people born with the instinctive feeling that the universe is solvable. Ridcully patted him on the shoulder. 'You never thought that being a wizard was going to be easy, did you?' Ponder stared at the jar, and then his mouth snapped into a thin line of determination. 'Right! We're going to sort this out! It must be something to do with the frequency! That's right! Tez the Terrible, get the crystal ball! Skazz, fetch the roll of steel wire! It must be the frequency!' The Band With Rocks In slept the night away in a single males' hostel in an alley off Gleam Street, a fact that would have interested the four enforcers of the Musicians' Guild sitting outside a piano-shaped hole in Phedre Road. Susan strode through the rooms of Death, seething gently with anger and just a touch of fear, which only made the anger worse. How could anyone even think like that? How could anyone be content to just be the personification of a blind force? Well, there were going to be changes . . . Her father had tried to change things, she knew. But only because he was, well, quite frankly, a bit soppy. He'd been made a duke by Queen Keli of Sto Lat. Susan knew what the title meant - duke meant 'war leader'. But her father never fought anyone. He seemed to spend all his time travelling from one wretched city state to another, all over the Sto Plains, just talking to people and trying to get them to talk to other people. He'd never killed anyone, as far as Susan knew, although he may have talked a few politicians to death. That didn't seem to be much of a job for a war leader. Admittedly there didn't seem to be all the little wars there used to be, but it was . . . not a proud kind of life. She walked through the hall of lifetimers. Even those on the highest shelves rattled gently as she passed. She'd save lives. The good could be spared, and the bad could die young. It would all balance up, too. She'd show him. As for responsibility, well . . . humans always made changes. That was what being human was all about. Susan opened another door and stepped into the library. It was a room even bigger than the hall of lifetimers. Bookcases rose like cliffs; a haze obscured the ceiling. But of course it'd be childish, she told herself, to think that she could go in waving the scythe like a magic wand and turn the world into a better place overnight. It might take some time.

So she should start in a small way and work up. She held out a hand. 'I'm not going to do the voice,' she said. 'That's just unnecessary drama and really a bit stupid. I just want the book of Imp y Celyn, thank you very much.' Around her the busyness of the library went on. Millions of books quietly carried on writing themselves, causing a rustle like that of cockroaches. She remembered sitting on a knee or, rather, sitting on a cushion on a knee, because the knee itself had been out of the question. Watching a bony finger follow the letters as they formed on the page. She'd learned to read her own life- 'I'm waiting,' said Susan meaningfully. She clenched her fists. IMP Y CELYN, she said. The book appeared in front of her. She just managed to catch it before it fluttered to the floor. 'Thank you,' she said. She flicked through the pages of his life until she came to the last one, and stared. Then she hastily went back until she found, written neatly down, his death in the Drum. It was all there - all untrue. He hadn't died. The book was lying. Or - and this she knew was a far more accurate way of looking at it - the book was true and reality was lying. What was more important was that from the moment of his death the book was writing music. Page after page had been covered with neat staves. While Susan watched, a clef drew itself in a series of careful loops. What did it want? Why should it save his life? And it was vitally important that she save him instead. She could feel the certainty like a ball- bearing in her mind. It was absolutely imperative. She'd never met him up close, she'd not exchanged a word with him, he was just one person, but it was him she had to save. Grandfather had said she shouldn't do that sort of thing. What did he know about anything? He'd never lived. Blert Wheedown made guitars. It was quiet, satisfying work. It took him and Gibbsson, the apprentice, about five days to make a decent instrument, if the wood was available and properly seasoned. He was a conscientious man who'd devoted many years to the perfection of one type of musical instrument, on which he himself was no mean performer. In his experience, guitarists came in three categories. There were the ones he thought of as real musicians, who worked at the Opera House or for one of the small private orchestras. There were the folk singers, who couldn't play but that was all right because most of them couldn't sing either. Then there were the hemhem - troubadours and other swarthy types who thought a guitar was, like a red rose in the teeth, a box of chocolates and a strategically placed pair of socks, another weapon in the battle of the sexes. They didn't play at all, apart from one or two chords, but they were regular customers. When leaping out of a bedroom window just ahead of an angry husband the one thing a paramour is least concerned about leaving behind is his instrument. Blert thought he'd seen them all. Mind you, first thing this morning he'd sold some to some wizards. That was unusual. Some of them had even bought Blert's guitar primer. The bell rang. 'Yes-'Blert looked at the customer, and made a huge mental effort '-sir?' It wasn't just the leather jerkin. It wasn't just the wristbands with studs. It wasn't just the broadsword. It wasn't just the helmet with the spikes. It was the leather and the studs and the sword and the helmet. This customer couldn't possibly be in categories one or two, Blert decided. The figure stood, looking uncertain, hands gripping convulsively, clearly not at home in a

dialogue situation. 'This a guitar shop?' it said. Blert looked around at the merchandise hanging from walls and ceiling. 'Er. Yes?' he said. 'I wants one.' As for category three, he didn't look like someone used to bothering with chocolates or roses. Or even 'hello'. 'Er . . .' Blert grabbed one at random and held it out in front of him. 'One like this?'

'I wants one that goes blam-Blam-blamma-BLAM-blammmmooohieeee. Y'know?' Blert looked down at the guitar. 'I'm not sure it does that,' he said. Two enormous black-nailed hands took it out of his grasp. 'Er, you're holding it wro-'

'Got a mirror?'

'Er, no-' One hairy hand was raised high in the air, and then plunged towards the strings. Blert never wanted to repeat the next ten seconds. People shouldn't be allowed to do that sort of thing to a defenceless musical instrument. It was like raising a little pony, feeding it and grooming it properly, plaiting ribbons in its tail, giving it a nice field with bunnies and daisies in it, and then watching the first rider take it out with spurs and a whip. The thug played as if he were searching for something. He didn't find it, but as the last discords faded away his features twisted into the determined expression of one who intends to go on looking. 'Yer, right. How much?' he said. It was on sale for fifteen dollars. But Blert's musical soul rebelled. He snapped. 'Twenty-five dollars,' was what he snapped. 'Yer, right. Will this be enough, then?' A small ruby was produced from somewhere in a pocket. 'I can't change that!' Blert's musical soul was still protesting, but his business head stepped in and flexed its elbows. 'But, but, but I'll throw in my guitar primer and a strap and a couple of pleckies, yes?' he said. 'It's got pictures of where to put your fingers and everything, yes?'

'Yer, right.' The barbarian walked out. Blert stared at the ruby in his hand. The bell rang. He looked up. This one wasn't quite so bad. There were fewer studs, and the helmet had only two spikes. Blert's hand shut around the jewel. 'Don't tell me you want a guitar?' he said. 'Yep. One of them that goes whoweeeooowweeeeoowwwwngngngng.' Blert looked around wildly. 'Well, there's this one,' he said, grabbing the nearest instrument. 'I don't know about wooeeoowweee but here's my primer as well and a strap and some pleckies, that'll be thirty dollars and I'll tell you what I'll do, I'll throw in the space between the strings for free, OK?'

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