Soul Music Page 25

'That was magnificent,' said Dibbler. 'What's up with the dwarf? Is he drowning?' Glod reached out an arm, without looking, smashed the top off another bottle of beer and poured it over his head. 'Mr Dibbler?' said Cliff. 'Yes?'

'I think we want to talk. Just us, like. The band. If you don't mind.' Dibbler looked from one to the other. Buddy was staring at the wall. Glod was making bubbling noises. Cliff was still on the floor. 'OK,' he said, and then added brightly, 'Buddy? The free performance . . . great idea. I'll start organizing it right away and you can do it just as soon as you get back from your tour. Right. Well, I'll just-' He turned to leave and walked into Cliff's arm, which was suddenly blocking the doorway. 'Tour? What tour?' Dibbler backed off a little. 'Oh, a few places. Quirm, Pseudopolis, Sto Lat ' He looked around at them. 'Didn't you want that?'

'We'll talk about dat later,' said Cliff. He pushed Dibbler out of the door and slammed it shut. Beer dripped off Glod's beard. 'Tour? Three more nights of this?'

'What's the problem?' said Asphalt. 'It was great! Everyone was cheering. You did two hours! I had to keep kickin'

'em off the stage! I never felt so-' He stopped. 'That's it, really,' said Cliff. 'The fing is, I go on dat stage, I sits down not knowing even what we're goin' to do, next minute Buddy plays something on his . . . on that thing, next I'm goin' bam-Bam-chcha-chcha-BAM-bam. I don't know what I'm playing. It just comes in my head and down my arms.'

'Yes,' said Glod. 'Me, too. Seems to me I'm getting stuff out of that horn I never put in there.'

'And it ain't like proper playing,' said Cliff. 'That's what I'm saying. It's more like being played.'

'You've been in show business a long time, right?' said Glod to Asphalt. 'Yep. Been there, done it. Seem 'em all.'

'You ever seen an audience like that?'

'I've seen 'em throw flowers and cheer at the Opera House-'

'Ha! Just flowers? Some woman threw her . . . clothing at the stage!'

'Dat's right! Landed on my head!'

'And when Miss VaVa Voom did the Feather Dance down at the Skunk Club in Brewer Street, the whole audience rushed the stage when she was down to the last feather-'

'That was like this, was it?'

'No,' the troll admitted. 'I got to say it, I ain't never seen an audience so . . . hungry. Not even for Miss VaVa Voom, and they were pretty damn peckish then, I can tell you. Of course, no- one threw underwear on to the stage. She used to throw it off the stage.'

'Dere's something else,' said Cliff. 'Dere's four people in this room and only three of 'em's talking.' Buddy looked up. 'The music's important,' he mumbled.

'It ain't music,' said Glod. 'Music don't do this to people. It don't make them feel like they've been put through a wringer. I was sweating so much I'm going to have to change my vest any day now.' He rubbed his nose. 'Also, I looked at that audience, and I thought: they paid money to get in here. I bet it came to more than ten dollars.' Asphalt held up a slip of paper. 'Found this ticket on the floor,' he said. Glod read it. 'A dollar-fifty?' he said. 'Six hundred people at a dollarfifty each? That . . . that's four hundred dollars!'

'Nine hundred,' said Buddy, in the same flat tone, 'but the money isn't important.'

'The money's not important? You keep on saying that! What kind of musician are you?' There was still a muted roar from outside. 'You want to go back to playing for half a dozen people in some cellar somewhere after this?' said Buddy. 'Who's the most famous horn player there ever was, Glod?'

'Brother Charnel,' said the dwarf promptly. 'Everyone knows that. He stole the altar gold from the Temple of Offler and had it made into a horn and played magical music until the gods caught up with him and pulled his'

'Right,' said Buddy, 'but if you went out there now and asked who the most famous horn player is, would they remember some felonious monk or would they shout for Glod Glodsson?'

'They'd-' Glod hesitated. 'Right,' said Buddy. 'Think about that. A musician has to be heard. You can't stop now. We can't stop now.' Glod waved a finger at the guitar. 'It's that thing,' he said. 'It's too dangerous.'

'I can handle it!'

'Yes, but where's it going to end?'

'It's not how you finish that matters,' said Buddy. 'It's how you get there.'

'That sounds elvish to me-' The door burst open again. 'Er,' said Dibbler, 'boys, if you don't come back and play something else then we're in the deep brown. . .'

'Can't play,' said Glod. 'I've run out of breath through lack of money.'

'I said ten dollars, didn't I?' said Dibbler. 'Each,' said Cliff. Dibbler, who hadn't expected to get away with less than a hundred, waved his hands in the air. 'Gratitude, is it?' he said. 'You want me to cut my own throat?'

'We'll help. If you like,' said Cliff. 'All right, all right, thirty dollars,' said Dibbler. 'And I go without my tea.' Cliff looked at Glod, who was still digesting the thing about the most famous horn player in the world. 'There's a lot of dwarfs and trolls in the audience,' said Cliff. '“Cavern Deep, Mountain High”?' said Glod. 'No,' said Buddy. 'What, then?'

'I'll think of something.' The audience spilled out into the street. The wizards gathered around the Dean, snapping their fingers.

'Wella-wella-wella-' sang the Dean happily. 'It's gone midnight!' said the Lecturer in Recent Runes, snapping his fingers, 'and I don't care a bit! What shall we do now?'

'We could have a rumble,' said the Dean. 'That's true,' said the Chair of Indefinite Studies, 'we did miss dinner.'

'We missed dinner?' said the Senior Wrangler. 'Wow! That's Music With Rocks In! We just don't care!'

'No, I meant . . .' The Dean paused. He wasn't quite sure, now he came to really think about it, what he had meant. 'It's a long walk back to the University,' he conceded. 'I suppose we could at least stop for a coffee or something.'

'Maybe a doughnut or two,' said Recent Runes. 'And perhaps some cake,' said the Chair. 'I could just fancy some apple pie,' said the Senior Wrangler. 'And some cake.'

'Coffee,' said the Dean. 'Ye-ess. A coffee bar. That's right.'

'What's a coffee bar?' said the Senior Wrangler. 'Like a chocolate bar?' said Recent Runes. The missed dinner, hitherto forgotten, was beginning to loom large in everyone's stomachs. The Dean looked down at his shiny new leather robe. Everyone had said how good it was. They'd admired BORN TO RUNE. His hair was right, too. He was thinking of shaving off his beard but just leaving the side bits because that felt right. And coffee . . . yes . . . coffee was in there somewhere. Coffee was all part of it. And there was the music. That was in there. That was everywhere. But there was something else, too. Something missing. He wasn't sure what it was, only that he'd know it if he ever saw it. It was very dark in the alley behind the Cavern, and only the keenest-sighted would have seen several figures pressed against the wall. The occasional glint of a tarnished sequin would indicate to those who knew about such things that these were the Musicians' Guild's crack enforcers, the Grisham Frord Close Harmony Singers. Unlike most of the people employed by Mr Clete they did, in fact, genuinely have some musical talent. They'd also been in to see the band. 'Do-wop, uh do-wop, uh do-wop-' said the thin one. 'Bubububuh-' said the tall one. There's always a tall one. 'Clete's right. If they keep pulling in audiences like that, everyone else is out of the show,' said Grisham. 'Oh yeah,' said the bass man. 'When they come through that door-' three more knives slipped from their sheaths '-well, just take your time from me.' They heard the sound of feet on stairs. Grisham nodded. 'A-one, a-two, a-one-two-thr-' GENTLEMEN? They pivoted. A dark figure stood behind them, holding a glowing scythe in its hands. Susan smiled horribly. TAKE IT FROM THE TOP? 'Oh, nooo,' said the bass man. Asphalt unbolted the door and stepped out into the night. 'Hey, what was that?' he said. 'What was what?' said Dibbler.

'I thought I heard some people running away . . .' The troll stepped forward. There was a ting. He reached down and picked up something. 'And whoever it was dropped this . . .'

'Just some item or other,' said Dibbler loudly. 'Come along, boys. You don't have to go back to any flophouse tonight. It's The Gritz for you!'

'That's a troll hotel, isn't it?' said Glod suspiciously. 'Trollish,' said Dibbler, waving a hand irritably. 'Hey, I bin in dere once doing cabarett!' said Cliff. 'Dey got nearly everything! Water out of taps in nearly every room! A speaking tube so's you can holler your meal order right down to the kitchen, and dese guys with actual shoes on who brings it right to you! The works!'

'Treat yourself!' said Dibbler. 'You boys can afford it!'

'And then there's this tour, is there?' said Glod sharply. ' We can afford that too, can we?'

'Oh, I shall help out with that,' said Dibbler expansively. 'Tomorrow you'll go to Pseudopolis, that'll take two days, then you can come back via Sto Lat and Quirm and be back here on Wednesday for the Festival. Great idea that. Giving something to the community, I've always been in favour of giving to the community. It's very good for . . . for . . . for the community. I'll get it all organized while you're away, OK? And then . . .' He put one arm around Buddy's shoulders and another around Glod's head. 'Genua! Klatch! Hersheba! Chimera! Howondaland! Maybe even the Counterweight Continent, they're talking about discovering it again real soon now, great opportunities for the right people! With your music and my unerring business sense, the world is our mollusc! Now, you just go off with Asphalt, the best rooms now, nothing's too much for my boys, and get some sleep without worrying about the bill-'

'Thank you,' said Glod. '-you can pay it in the morning.' The Band With Rocks In shambled away in the direction of the best hotel. Dibbler heard Cliff say, 'What's a mollusc?'

'It's like two plates of precipitated calcium carbonate with a salty slimy fishy thing in the middle.'

'Sounds tasty. You don't have to eat dat bit in the middle, do you?' When they'd gone, Dibbler looked at the knife he'd taken from Asphalt. It had sequins on it. Yes. A few days with the lads out of the way was definitely a good move. On his perch in the gutter above, the Death of Rats gibbered to himself. Ridcully walked slowly out of the Cavern. Only a light drift of used tickets on the steps bore witness to the hours of music. He felt like someone watching a game who didn't know the rules. For example, the boy had been singing . . . what was it? Rave In. What the hell did that mean? Raving, yes, he could understand that, and in the Dean's case it was perfectly accurate. Rave In? But everyone else had seemed to know what was meant. And then there had been, as far as he could remember, a song about not stepping on someone's shoes. Fair enough, sensible suggestion, no-one wanted their feet trodden on, but why a song asking people to avoid doing so should have such an effect Ridcully was at a loss to understand. And as for the girl . . . Ponder bustled up, clutching his box. 'I've got nearly all of it, Archchancellor!' he shouted. Ridcully glanced past him. There was Dibbler, still bearing a tray of unsold Band With Rocks In shirts. 'Yes, fine, Mr Stibbons (shutupshutupshutup),' he said. 'Jolly good, let's get back home.'

'Good evening, Archchancellor,' said Dibbler.

'Why, hello, Throat,' said Ridcully. 'Didn't see you there.'

'What's in that box?'

'Oh, nothing, nothing at all-'

'It's amazing!' said Ponder, full of the undirected excitement of the true discoverer and idiot. 'We can trap the arragh aargh aargh.'

'My word, clumsy old me,' said Ridcully, as the young wizard clutched at his leg. 'Here, let me take that totally innocent device you have there-' But the box had tumbled out of Ponder's arms. It hit the street before Ridcully could catch it, and the lid flew off. The music spilled out into the night. 'How did you do that?' said Dibbler. 'It is magic?'

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