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FIC: "Grace Notes" (A Useful Original Character! G.)

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Aug. 2nd, 2012 | 01:25 pm
posted by: bethbethbeth in disc_fest

Author: primeideal
Title: Grace Notes
Characters and/or Pairing(s): OC (gen)
Rating: G
Word Count (if applicable): 2000
Medium (if applicable): n/a
Possible warnings and/or enticements - highlight to view (may contain spoilers): *Set post-Soul Music.
Summary: Restoring the balance of history requires tidying up every loose end, no matter how small...or resistant.

Cabe Mabbels did not literally wake up with a few coins burning a hole in his pocket. If he had, that would likely have made this story rather shorter.

If he had not even figuratively had any desire to spend the newly (was it newly? It had all been a bit of a stupor) acquired coins, this story would likely have never been told. Not because Cabe didn't eventually spend the money, but because if the forces of history had just ignored him, they would have been busy elsewhere.

Cabe was not a member of the Thieves' Guild, and he had no intention of infringing on their labors. He recognized the art and skill of the guildsmen. It was a noble trade with a long tradition that Cabe had no particular desire to train in. He fancied himself an itinerant member of the “Teaching Idiots Lessons” guild, whose membership transcended all boundaries of circumstance.

They were nice coins, and he found himself flipping one idly. It looked rather foreign, although for Cabe, “foreign” could just as well mean “from some other poor sod's collection, innit.”

He set out through the crowded streets of Ankh-Morpork before being distracted by what sounded like the tortured squeals of a small animal. This would normally not have been enough to dissuade him from straying from his path, except that it was taking place in the confines of a business district. When he eventually wandered over to the small storefront, it was out of no charitable impulse but rather an unquenchable curiosity as to how the suffering of such a mammal was really a business opportunity, and if so, how he could start a cheap ripoff.

To Cabe's disappointment, there were no signs of any such activity as he drew closer. It was a small shop, with a staff seeming to consist of one elderly woman sitting behind the desk, and on the frontmost shelves at least were small sculptures—he couldn't quite recognize the objects in the back.

“Hello, Mister,” she smiled, and for one wild moment he almost thought she knew him and was going to address him by name, but she blinked. “How can I help you?”

“Er,” he said, putting his hands in his pockets and spinning one of the coins, “nothing really, just—just came to check out the noise...”

“But of course!” She reached for one of the sculptures and began turning a long bronze key in the back. A moment later, the same screeching began.

“Stop it!” he said. “Do they all do that?”

“Of course. It's a music box, isn't it? For playing lullabies.”


“To put babies to sleep.”

“When you say...“sleep.””


No great student of the conversational arts himself, Cabe stammered on, “This isn't, like, mettyphoric sleep. Innit.”

The shopkeeper blinked. “Come again?”

“To this shop? I should think not,” he said, but he picked up another of the ridiculous boxes again. Not because he had any desire to turn the key within it. But it was a nice looking key. Keys opened locks. If the key happened to open some other lock, well, that was less of a Thievery and more of a Teachable Moment.

Cabe pulled on the key. He pulled harder. He gripped the rest of the box with his other hand and yanked once more...

“You break it, you buy it!” hissed the shopkeeper, a far-too-eager glint in her eye.

He lost his balance and stumbled down, clutching the box in his hand. Alongside all the mass of the disc pulling it to the ground, he almost felt a newer, wilder, urge to drop the thing and live with the consequences. (1)

But he clutched it all the more tightly, determined to escape the shop once and for all. With a glare, he replaced it back on the shelf, and returned to his shopping, not quite making out the echo of a muttered expletive behind him.

Once back on the street, he nevertheless felt the urge to continue walking. As he went along, he made his way towards Ankh-Morpork's relatively literary circles. Cabe greatly appreciated the Power of Literature. It Transported Readers to Other Places and Times without the necessities of Movement. Readers thus Transported while still gloriously Present were quite frequently Idiots.

Approaching these establishments, he noticed a sign from a smaller store close by.

Definitely NOT a bookstore
Ain't got much books with words in
DON'T meet and greet and sign books with the artist
Tomorrow after lunch

Cabe, who quite enjoyed non-books (2), duly made his way inside.

“Er,” he said to the short man who was sitting at the desk, “what've you got in here? If not books.”

“We ain't got books with words in,” said the man. “Can you read the sign, or are you one of them illiterate folks? We takes all sorts.”

“Er—I was just wondering.”

“We got books,” the man grinned, “with pictures.”

“Oh,” blinked Cabe. “The sign said something about...a signing?”

“Well, it'll be...sort of...tomorrow...in a way. Only it's not with the artist of the books, see.”

“That's all right,” said Cabe, who was never much of a fan of other people drawing anyway unless it involved drawing his name from a hat. (3)

“He's sent the models themselves, see.”

“The models?”

“In the book. With the pictures.”

Cabe stared.

“Here, how's this. You buy a copy of the book, and then tomorrow I'll let you be first in line for looking at the models?”

“If I have a book, I can keep it with me, look at it whenever I want?”

“That's right.”

“Then what would I want to come and meet the models in person for?”

“It'll be quite—”

“A bit stupid of a business model if you ask me,” said Cabe, who despite himself was able to value Teachable Moments even when there was no profit to be made for himself. Unless one counted “holding onto the funny old coins” as profit.


“Maybe I'll just come back and look tomorrow,” Cabe said idly as he left, the store owner muttering something uncomplimentary under his breath. But Cabe was not to return there, and in fact the Not Bookstore was very quickly gone from Ankh-Morpork. (4)

Still driven for some reason to purchase something, Cabe continued to pace the familiar streets. They were so familiar that he hardly needed to look where he was going when he could be busy looking at where other people were going. But as he and his eyes roved jointly, he found himself running into an unforeseen obstacle.

Fortunately, this obstacle was made of very soft fabric, so no great harm was done.

It was, in fact, a sort of cape hanging out on a rack in front of what Cabe took to be a clothing store he'd never seen before. Blinking, he walked inside, and found himself staring at many brightly-colored shirts, some with the same swirling pattern in different colors and a few with many different colors all crammed onto the same shirt.

“D'you want one?” a tired-looking young woman offered. “They're on sale.”

“What are they?” Cabe said, gripping one with two fingers. As far as he could tell it was just a normal shirt, albeit one that made the wearer rather too likely to stand out in a crowd.

“Well, I figure someone drew on them with, you know, colors, but I'd rather be caught dead than wear one—I have no idea why we have so many in stock. I call them Draw-Dead shirts.”

“Catchy,” muttered Cabe.

“Do you want one? Here, I'll throw in a pair of shoes,” she said. “Some idiots were coming through but they both kicked theirs off—I don't know why.”

“Used shoes and lurid shirts no one would be caught dead in?” Cabe shook his head. “I'm used to pushy salespeople, but today is particularly bad.”


“This is the third shop I've been to for the first time—I guess they've all been around a while.” Cabe shook his head and told himself not to begin a mental list of all the stores he'd been to. (5)

“Well, it's not your place to worry about our future,” she shrugged. “Just...buy a shirt?”

“Not here, thanks,” he said, and headed for the exit.

“Are you—are you sure—”

“Quite positive,” said Cabe, and was gone before she could stammer her reply.

By that point he had given up on the prospect of making any purchase that day, urges be darned, and was ready to go home. This he resolved, and as he walked along was at first unswayed by the varieties of smells that came floating towards him. (Mostly food, but—this being Ankh-Morpork—a few smells that suggested he ought not to go directly home but instead immediately detour in the completely opposite direction.)

A little farther on, he began to feel rather peckish, but pressed on anyway. It was not until he was accosted by both tempting smells and hunger pangs that he ventured a trip inside a conveniently-located chip shop. Even more conveniently, there was no line, and he duly ordered a serving of fish and chips, the coins unceremoniously passing into the cash box. (6)

Cabe ate the fish and chips on his way home, feeling...calmer for some reason, or at least freer. As he threw away his wrappers, he caught a glimpse of the outer one, a repurposed newspaper. Something about...hiding. Yes. Like hiding...hiding money in his room. Money he had taken from...somewhere.

Cabe blinked, and walked along.

After that things went much more easily for the forces of righting-the-universe. Manipulating large sums of money, after all, is no difficult task—plenty of executives on plenty of worlds do it without much trouble. The real trick is in getting crotchety individuals to fall in line.

Once the fish and chip stop had collected that week's profit, they quickly turned around and dumped plenty of cash on their fish providers. (8) They, in turn, needed change for some insufferably-organized clients in Quirm, who had gone to the trouble of neatly finding one extremely large bill to pay with. The manager of the Quirm shop, then, gave the spare change to the newest employee, who'd joined mid-pay period and hadn't worked long enough to earn a full paycheck.

So it was that Imp Y Celyn was reunited with the money he had brought from Llamedos and lost on the streets of Ankh-Morpork to someone else seeking his fortune. Rewriting the pages of history, after all, requires everything to be note-perfect before one can rest.

1. Of course, gravity is always assisted by its old buddy the Higgs Goblin, what gives things mass and owt with a violent slap on the back. Higgsy, needing some “personal space” away from the machinations of P. Stibbons, had recently retreated to XXXX, which caused little problem except for some uncommonly-excitable balloons at certain Ankh-Morpork birthday parties.

2. The non-books that looked like books with spines in were nice and hollow and good places for hiding the fruits of his labors. What few guests he had were not the type to look too closely.

3. When they drew conclusions, that was the worst.

4. This was no great loss, as establishments advertising their pictorial virtues tended to be overrun with requests for such classic works as Not My Cow.

5. This was rather naturally subdivided into Stores Frequented By Idiots, Overpriced Stores, and Stores Where I Am No Longer Welcome.

6. Other cash boxes were divided into Large Bills, Small Bills, and Medium-Sized Bills. Ankh-Morpork restaurant cash boxes were divided into Money What I Could Embezzle, Money I Don't Care To Embezzle On Account Of It's Covered In Some Unidentified Sticky Substance Of Unknown Origin, and Money What I Could Launder (7).

7. To Remove the Unidentified Substances.

8. Most of them, anyway. One of the more influential providers of small fish was Barnabas the Biggest Fish, who collected a certain quota of nested smaller fish every week in accordance with the Laws of Arithmetic Sequences of Fish Nesting. Barnabas was unable to accept payment for his services.

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Comments {6}


(no subject)

from: firebird5
date: Aug. 3rd, 2012 09:09 am (UTC)

This fic is really very good. It's so Pratchettian I can almost see it coming from his pen. Great characters, lovely prose and absolutely hilarious (<3 the footnotes). Great job!

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(no subject)

from: primeideal.dreamwidth.org
date: Aug. 13th, 2012 05:21 pm (UTC)

I'm flattered, thank you so much! Cute avatar, too.

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a continual state of inelegance

(no subject)

from: donnaimmaculata
date: Aug. 4th, 2012 03:50 am (UTC)

This is so clever! I love what you did with the prompt. It must have been such fun coming up with all these surreal, very Discwordian ideas. And Higgs Goblin literally made me LOL. The poor creature must have been so tired of Ponder Stibbons' attentions.

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(no subject)

from: primeideal.dreamwidth.org
date: Aug. 13th, 2012 05:22 pm (UTC)

Thank you very much! The summary was actually my own (I did a Wild Card because I really wanted to do a Soul Music centered thing). Glad you liked Higgsy!

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(no subject)

from: opalmatrix
date: Aug. 6th, 2012 10:58 pm (UTC)

Great Pratchett voice!

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(no subject)

from: primeideal.dreamwidth.org
date: Aug. 13th, 2012 05:22 pm (UTC)

Thank you so much!

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