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Mudge, so if you want to take the risk of listening to me...."
"I'm not afraid," she replied, misunderstanding him. "Try not for the sound.
Try for the magic. It's not like a wizard as great as Clothahump, even if his
powers are failing, to make such a mistake."
Try for the magic, he thought. Huh... try for the sound. That's what the lead
bass player for a very famous group had once told him. The guy had been higher
than the Pope when Jon-Tom had accidentally run into him in a hall before a
concert playing to twenty thousand. Stuttering, hardly able to talk to so
admired a musician, he'd barely been able to mumble the usual fatuous request
for "advice to a struggling young guitarist."
"Hey, man... you got to try for the sound. Hear? Try for the sound."
That hastily uttered parable had been sufficiently unspecific to stick in his
mind. Jon-Tom had been trying for the sound for years, but he hadn't come
close to finding it. Most would-be musicians never did. Maybe finding the
sound was the difference between the pro and the amateur. Or maybe it was only
a matter of getting too stoked to notice the difference.
Whatthehell.
He fiddled a little longer with the pseudo-treble/bass controls. They
certainly improved the music. Why not play something difficult? Stretch
yourself, Jon-Tom.
You've nothing to lose. These two critics can't change your career one way or
t'other. There was only one sound he'd ever hoped to reach for, so he reached.
"Purple haze..." he began, and thereafter, as always, he lost himself in the
music, forgetting the watching Talea, forgetting Mudge, forgetting the place
and time of where he was, forgetting everything except reaching for the sound.
He played as hard as he could on that strange curved instrument. It lifted
him, juiced him with the natural high playing always brought him. As he played
it seemed to him that he could hear the friendly prickling music of his own
old electric guitar. His nerves quivered with the pleasure and his ears rang
with the familiarity of it. He was truly happy, cradling and caressing that
strange instrument, forgetting his surroundings, his troubles, his parents.
A long time later (or maybe it was only a couple of minutes) he became aware
that someone was shaking him. He blinked and stopped playing, the last rough
chord dying away, soaked up by the earth and trees. He blinked at Talea, and
she let loose of his arms, backed away from him a little. She was looking at
him strangely.
Mudge also stood nearby, staring.
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"What's going on? Was I that bad?" He felt a little dizzy.
" 'Tis a fine chap you are, foolin' your mate like this," said the otter with
a mixture of awe and irritation. "Forgive me, lad. I'd no idea you'd been
toyin'
with me all this time. Don't go too harsh on me. I've only done what I thought
best for you and..."
"Stop that, Mudge. What are you blubbering about?"
"The sounds you made... and something else, spellsinger." He gaped at her.
"You're still trying to fool us, aren't you? Just like you fooled Clothahump.
Look at your duar."
His gaze dropped and he jumped slightly. The last vestiges of a powerful
violet luminescence were slowly fading from the edges of the instrument,
slower still from the lambent metal strings.
"I didn't... I haven't done anything." He shoved at the instrument as though
it might suddenly turn and bite him. The strap kept it seeure around his neck
and it swung back to bounce off his ribs. The club-staff rocked uncomfortably
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on his back.
"Try again," Talea whispered. "Reach for the magic again."
It seemed to have grown darker much too fast. Hesitantly (it was only an
instrument, after all) he plucked at the lower strings and strummed again a
few bars of "Purple Haze." Each time he struck a string it emitted that rich
violet glow.
There was something else. The music was different. Cold as water from a
mountain tarn, rough as a file's rasp. It set a fire in the head like white
lightning and sent goosebumps down his arms. Bits of thought rattled around
like ball bearings inside his skull.
My oh, but that was a fine sound!
He tried again, more confidently now. Out came the proper chords, with a power
and thunder he hadn't expected. All the time they reverberated and echoed
through the trees, and there was no amplifier in sight. That vast sound was
pouring purple from the duar resting firm on his shoulder and light beneath
his dancing fingers.
Is it the instrument that's transformed, he thought wildly, or something in
me?
That was the key line, of course, from another song entirely. But it
rationalized, if not explained, he thought, what was happening there hi the
forest.
"I'm not a spellsinger," he finally told them. "I'm still not sure what that
is." He was surprised at the humbleness in his voice. "But I always thought I
had something in me. Every would-be musician does. There's a line that goes,
'The magic's in the music and the music's in me.' Maybe you're right, Talea.
Maybe Clothahump was more accurate than even he knew.
"I'm going to do what I can, though I can't imagine what that might be. So far
all I know I can do is make this duar shine purple."
"Never mind 'ow you do it, mate." Mudge swelled with pride at his companion's
accomplishment. "Just don't forget 'ow."
"We need to experiment." Talea's mind was working furiously. "You need to
focus your abilities, Jon-Tom. Any wizard..."
"Don't... call me that."
"Any spellsinger, then, has to be able to be speeific with his magic.
Unspecific magic is not only useless, it's dangerous."
"I don't know any of the right words," he protested. "I don't know any songs
with scientific words."
"You've got the music, Jon-Tom. That's magic enough to make the words work."
She looked around the forest. Dusk was settling gently over the treetops.
"What do we need?"
"Money," said Mudge without hesitation.
"Shut up, Mudge. Be serious."
"I'm always serious where money be concerned, luv."
She threw him a sour look. "We can't buy transportation where none exists.
Money won't get us safely and quickly to Clothahump's Tree." She looked
expectantly at
Jon-Tom.
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