Soul Music

This is a terriffic book, in spite of the fact that Lord Vetinari appears only twice.

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Scene the...
First The Patrician meets with Cumbling Michael; His Lordship's preferences in music explained.
Second His Lordship meets with Foul Ole Ron.
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'Music?' said the Patrician. 'Ah. Tell me more.'
He leaned back in an attitude that suggested attentive listnening. 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-and-lightening 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.
'And then what happened?' he said.
'An' then he starting singing', yerronner,' said Cumbling Michael, licensed beggar and informal informant. 'A song about Great Fiery Balls.'
The Patrician raised an eyebrow.
'Something' 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.

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Foul Ole Ron, professional maniac and one of Ankh-Morpork's most industrious beggars, blinked in the gloom. Lord Vetinari had excellent night vision. And, unfortunately, a well-developed sense of smell.
'And then what happened?' he said, trying to keep his face turned away from the beggar. Because the fact was that although in actual size Foul Ole Ron was a small hunched man in a huge grubby overcoat, in smell he filled the world.
In fact Foul Ole Ron was a physical schizophrenic. There was Foul Ole Ron, and there was the smell of Foul Ole Ron, which had obviously developed over the years to such an extent that it had a distinct personality. Anyone could have a smell that lingered long after they'd gone somewhere else, but the smell of Foul Ole Ron could actually arrive somewhere several minutes before he did, in order to spread out and get comfortable before he arrived. It had evolved into something so striking that it was no longer perceived with the nose, which shut down instantly in self-defence; people could tell that Foul Ole Ron was approaching by the way their ear wax started to melt.
'Buggrit, buggrit, wrong side out, I told 'em, buggrem...'
The Patrician waited. With Foul Ole Ron you had to allow time for his wandering mind to get into the same vicinity as his tongue.
'...spyin' on me with magic, I told 'em, bean soup, see here... and then everyone was dancing, you see, and then afterwards there were two of the wizards in the street and one of them was going on about catching the music in a box and Mr Dibbler was interested and then the coffee house exploded and they all went back to the university...buggrit, buggrit, buggrem, see if I don't.'
'The coffee house exploded, did it?'
'Frothy coffee all over the place, yerronner...bugg--'
'Yes, yes, and so on,' said the Patrician, waving a thin hand. 'And that's all you can tell me?'
Foul Ole Ron caught the Patrician's eye and got a grip on himself. Even in his own highly individualized sanity he could tell when not to push his threadbare luck. His Smell wandered around the room, reading documents and examining the pictures.
'They say,' he said, 'that he drives all the women mad.' He leaned forward. The Patrician leaned back. 'They say after he moved his hips like that...Mrs Whitlow threw her...wossnames...on to the stage.'
The Patrician raised an eyebrow.
'You know.' Foul Ole Ron moved his hands vaguely in the air.
'A pair of pillow cases? Two sacks of flour? Some very baggy trou- oh. I see. My word. Were there any casualties?'
'Dunno, yerronner. But there's something I do know.'
'Uh...Cumbling Michael says yerronner sometimes pays for information...?'
'Yes, I know. I can't imagine how these rumours get about,' said the Patrician, getting up and opening a window. 'I shall have to have something done about it.'
Once again, Foul Ole Ron reminded himself that while he was probably insane he definitely wasn't as mad as all that.
'Only I got this, yerronner,' he said, pulling something out of the horrible recesses of his clothing. 'It says writing on it, yerronner.'
It was a poster, in glowing primary colours. It couldn't have been very old, but an hour or two in Foul Ole Ron's chest-warmer had aged it considerably. The Patrician unfolded it with a pair of tweezers.
'Them's the pictures of the music players,' said Foul Ole Ron helpfully, 'and that's writing. And there's more writing there, look. Mr Dibbler had Chalky the troll run 'em off just now, but I nipped in after and threatened to breathe on everyone less'n they gives me one.'
'I'm sure that worked famously,' said the Patrician.
He lit a candle and read the poster carefully. In the presence of Foul Ole Ron, all candles burned with a blue edge to the flame.
'"Free Festival of Music with Rocks In It",' he said.
'That's where you don't have to pay to go in,' said Foul Ole Ron helpfully. 'Buggrem, buggrit.'
Lord Vetinari read on.
'In Hide Park. Next Wednesday. Well, well. A public open space, of course. I wonder if there'll be many people there?'
'Lots, yerronner. There was hundreds couldn't get into the Cavern.'
'And the band looks like that, do they?' said Lord Vetinari. 'Scowling like that?'
'Sweating, most of the time I saw 'em,' said Foul Ole Ron.
'"Bee There Orr Bee A Rectangluar Thyng",' said the Patrician. 'This is some sort of occult code, do you think?'
'Couldn't say, yerronner,' said Foul Ole Ron. 'My brain goes all slow when I'm thirsty.'
'"They Are Totallye Unable To Bee Seene! And A Longe Way Oute!"' said Lord Vetinari solemnly. He looked up. 'Oh, I am sorry,' he said. 'I'm sure I can find someone to give you a cool refreshing drink...'
Foul Ole Ron coughed. It had sounded like a perfectly sincere offer, but, somehow, he was suddenly not at all thirsty.
'Don't let me keep you, then. Thank you so very much,' said Lord Vetinari.
'Er... nothing...'
'Very good.'
When Ron had buggrit, buggrit, buggrem'd down the stairs, the Patrician tapped his pen thoughtfully on the paper and stared at the wall.
The pen kept bouncing on the word Free.
Finally he rang a small bell. A young clerk put his head around the door.
'Ah, Drumknott,' said Lord Vetinari, 'just go and tell the head of the Musicians' Guild he wants a word with me, will you?'
'Er...Mr Clete is already in the waiting room, your lordship,' said the clerk.
'Does he by any chance have some kind of poster with him?'
'Yes, your lordship.'
'And is he very angry?'
'This is very much the case, your lordship. It's about some festival. He insists you have it stopped.'
'Dear me.'
'And he demands that you see him instantly.'
'Ah. Then leave him for, say, twenty minutes, then show him up.'
'Yes, your lordship. He keeps saying that he wants to know what you are going to do about it.'
'Good. Then I can ask him the same question.'
The Patrician sat back. Si non confectus, non reficiat. That was the motto of the Vetinaris. Everything worked if you just let it happen.
He picked up a stack of sheet-music and began to listen to Salami's Prelude to a Nocturne on a Theme by Bubbla.
After a while he looked up.
'Don't hesitate to leave,' he snapped.
The Smell slunk away.

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This page last futzed with: 11/20/00