The L-Space Web: Books: Synopses

Carpe Jugulum


Written by Ed

High above the Discworld, a strange fireball streaks through the skies. It hurtles down towards the ground, eventually flying low over the Sto Plains and heading up towards the Ramtops...and flies over a mysterious black coach, trundling over the plains towards the tiny country of Lancre. Suddenly, four figures fly through the clouds. The vampires drift down and enter the coach: there are the pragmatic Count Magpyr, his long-suffering wife and their two children, the world-weary Vlad and his maniac sister, Lacrimosa. As the coach continues its journey towards Lancre (where even now a horde of tiny blue men rush over the fields...) the Magpyr family cease their bickering only to berate the much- abused coachman, Igor.

It is late winter in Lancre. Nanny Ogg is preparing for the naming ceremony of King Verence and Queen Magrat's baby daughter. She sits in her chair and reads the invitation she has received, which is bedecked by a ridiculous amount of gold plate.

Meanwhile, Magrat's old cottage has not been unused since she left witchcraft to become Queen. Agnes Nitt is also preparing for the ceremony, but she is worried about her own mind, as the part of her she named "Perdita"-the name she originally gave to the part of her that thinks the thoughts she doesn't like-has developed into a full split personality.

Meanwhile, Granny Weatherwax is also worried-she does not seem to have received an invitation. She is simply waiting in her cottage when there is a knock on her door from a young boy with an urgent message-a woman is in labour in another part of the country, but she is having difficulties. Although the midwife up there is extremely competent, Granny's help is required.

Up at the castle, excitement is in the air as the ceremony is to begin in only a few hours. However, down in the mews (where the royal birds are kept) it is business as usual as the falconer, Hodgesaargh, pays little attention to events that do not directly concern his birds. However, there are strange events occurring down there, as every hooded head is silently turned up towards the ceiling...

In the road outside Lancre sits Casanunda the dwarf. Although by reputation he is something of a womaniser, at present he is by occupation a highwayman. He is getting ready to halt the Magpyr's coach when another highwayman, hiding further up the road, ambushes them instead. Casanunda can only watch in horror as the highwayman is dragged inside the coach and thrown out again without a single drop of blood left in his body. The coach continues towards Lancre, and Count Magpyr looks forward to meeting Granny Weatherwax...

In the mews, the birds sit silently as something unseen lands outside the window. Suddenly, in a flash of flame, the wooden bars begin to burn away.

Nanny meets Agnes at Lancre castle. Nanny asks where the regular priest is and Agnes innocently tells her that he has had an accident, so King Verence has sent for an Omnian priest from a nearby mission. Nanny is not impressed; the Omnians are known for their piety, and not long ago used to burn witches. She storms off to confront Verence about it.

In a field outside the town is a tent, in which sits Mightily-Praiseworthy-Are-Ye-Who- Exalteth-Om Oats, the Omnian priest. He too is worried, as the numerous recent schisms in the Omnian church have left him unsure of his faith and of himself. He leaves for the castle.

Granny arrives at the Ivy family's house and finds that events are very bad; so much so that she cannot save both the baby and the mother. Death arrives and requires her to make a choice; as he says:

ON THE VERY EDGE YOU WILL ALWAYS FIND SOME UNCERTAINTY.

Granny makes her choice and the baby dies. The mother begins to recover. Granny leaves, vowing never to reveal what happened there.

No sooner has Nanny Ogg potted Mightily Oats, Agnes is collared by her companion's son and Lancre's only civil servant, Shawn Ogg. He tells her that Magrat wants to see her.

As the vampires are temporarily halted by a border check, Granny flies home. She has the horrific knowledge that if she had gone to the ceremony then both the baby and the mother would be dead. Suddenly she sees a mist coming into the country from Uberwald, the country of werewolves and vampires...

Agnes meets Magrat in her dressing room. While they have a chat, Nanny is berating King Verence for letting an Omnian priest do the naming ceremony. However, he stands his ground and she is forced to return to the great hall where the ceremony is about to begin. There is a problem though: Granny Weatherwax, who is to be the infant princess' godmother, has not arrived. Granny is still at home, worrying about Uberwald. Nanny therefore has to stand in for her, and makes it known to the unfortunate Oats that any Omnian ways will not be tolerated. The ceremony begins, and Oats is extremely nervous; he has only recently been ordained and this is his first time. Because of this he makes an error: Magrat, who should have been named Margaret were it not for her mother's bad spelling, has written down carefully the baby's name. However, when Oats reads from the paper the baby is named Esmerelda Margaret Note Spelling of Lancre. Nanny is more shocked that the baby has been named after Granny Weatherwax.

Granny Weatherwax is feeling particularly upset at her lack of invitation, when suddenly she senses the vampires...

Oats is being eaten with guilt despite the fact that the people think Note and Spelling are nice middle names. Agnes slips away and meets Vlad Magpyr. Her alter ego Perdita is instantly entranced but before long Nanny comes for her. She drags her out to the coach park where the vampires' coach is parked. The coach is bedecked with magpies-of which there have been a suspicious number of lately. Nanny is appalled that Verence has been so stupid to invite vampires into the country. They meet Igor, but he seems to be on their side-he hates the Magpyrs and their modern ways, and pines for his previous master.

In the great hall, Nanny is going round with a plate of canapes-garlic stuffed with garlic. Vlad takes one, but instead of dying he seems to like them. He takes some more, to Nanny's horror. Vlad puts Nanny into a trance, although Agnes remains unaffected. She hears the Count say about how they intend to move in and take over, and Nanny and the King just listen and smile. Agnes however, is not affected by their influence and she takes Nanny away, back to her cottage (where the tiny blue men are hiding...). Suddenly, Perdita takes control of Agnes' arm and carves the letters VMPIR into the wall. She then takes a huge swig of Nanny's brandy and lets Perdita take over.

In the mews, Hodgesaargh finds something has been burning-but very localised as only a small patch in the floor is burned. In it, he finds fragments of eggshell as well as a flame that doesn't burn and never seems to go out. He has his suspicions, and looks up an entry in one of his books-not aware that there is something hiding in the mews...

Agnes tells Nanny about Perdita and about the influence the vampires put on her. They head back to the castle to force the vampires out.

Hodgesaargh's suspicions are confirmed-the scorch marks in the mews were made by a phoenix burning itself up to incubate its egg. The flame he has found is one of its feathers. However, no two drawing of it are alike; it seems the phoenix may be a shape shifter. Hodgesaargh intends to go about finding it.

Nanny and Agnes meet Verence-who has had the vampires' spell placed in him-and the Magpyr family in the castle. However, Nanny immediately falls under their influence. Agnes remains unaffected because whenever her mind is influenced Perdita takes over. In this way she is able to incapacitate Vlad with a well placed knee. She takes Nanny and they escape.

Just before dawn, Hodgesaargh sets out to find the phoenix chick. He has made a custom lure specially for it.

 

As the sun rises over Lancre, Nanny and Agnes arrive at Granny's house and find her gone. All the items that belong to her are gone, and all the items that come with the cottage (crockery, the clock, etc) have been cleaned and laid out. Nanny is furious, as her son Shawn assured her that he posted Granny's invitation personally. They go into the garden, where there are seven magpies in the trees. Agnes suddenly notices something- everything is laid out in threes. There are three sets of cutlery on the table. There are three cups laid out, even though Granny has four; the fourth is lying smashed in the bin. The clock has stopped at three minutes past three. Agnes, however, does not know what it signifies. Nanny does, but is reluctant to say.

Granny Weatherwax climbs up the mountains and away from Lancre. She turns round just to see a magpie fly over the country, and then keeps climbing.

Nanny tells Agnes about coven hierarchy. A coven consists of three witches-the maiden, the mother and the crone. It used to be the case that Magrat was the maiden, Nanny was the mother and Granny was the crone. Now Magrat has a baby she has become the mother and Agnes is the new maiden. Nanny is now the crone, which means that Granny no longer feels necessary and has left. This feeling is exacerbated by the fact that Magrat's baby is called Esmerelda; the name is being "passed on". They need to find Granny, as they cannot defeat the vampires without her. Suddenly, a magpie flies in through the window and steals a spoon. Nanny remarks on their affinity for shiny objects, and then realises where Granny's invitation is.

Count Magpyr looks up at the overcast sky, through which the sun can be made out. He is unaffected; he has been gradually acclimatising his family to holy symbols, daylight, garlic and holy water to make them invincible. To his vicious daughter Lacrimosa's disgust, he and his wife drink a glass of wine. Vlad teases his sister about this, as it is the latest trend among her friends to give themselves human names and stay up until noon. The Count summons Igor and tells him to fetch Verence, who lies in a trance in his room when he is not needed.

Agnes is balancing precariously in a tree by a magpies' nest, in which she finds Granny's invitation. As she climbs down she and Nanny meet Oats, who has hoped to find Granny. They agree to head back to Nanny's cottage; while Nanny flies on her broomstick Agnes walks with Oats. On their way they receive a shock, as two centaurs burst into the road and run away. Centaurs are Uberwald creatures not seen in Lancre, as are the tiny blue men that both Agnes and Oats have seen. Oats reveals that he is aware of the vampires, and they cannot take over his mind either. Suddenly, they hear a strange noise-it is Hodgesaargh with his bizarre phoenix call. He tells them that he saw Granny Weatherwax leave Lancre early that morning, and so Agnes and Oats run off to tell Nanny.

In Nanny's house, Agnes says where Granny has gone. Nanny is not pleased-she has gone up to a moor of gnarly ground: the land is warped by magic trapped thousands of years ago by the rising Ramtop mountain range. Nanny sends Agnes and Oats to the castle to get Magrat.

Agnes and Oats arrive at the castle and see the vampires' servants who, in a state of catatonia, are moving in their furniture. Agnes and Oats gain access to the castle by hiding in coffins, and are carried down to the cellar. They are found by Igor, who is duty bound to inform the Magpyrs. However, Oats knocks him out with his coffin lid. They rush up to find Magrat. Initially she doesn't believe that there are vampires in the castle (their influence means that most people are unaware of this), but as soon as Agnes tells her that Granny Weatherwax is in trouble she packs her things, takes her baby and leaves.

The Count cannot find Granny Weatherwax, even though his magpie spies have spread across the kingdom. This annoys him.

After regrouping at Nanny Ogg's cottage, she Agnes and Magrat head off to the gnarly ground.

Hodgesaargh has given up. It is raining, and his lure is ruined. As he heads back he sees what appears to be a small magpie, which suddenly panics when it sees him. After changing shape several times it self destructs. Hodgesaargh throws himself clear of the explosion, and sadly returns to the castle. The phoenix is dead.

The witches traverse the gnarly ground. It is difficult as their minds are affected by the misshapen moor, but eventually they reach the caves at the far end. They enter the one they believe Granny Weatherwax to be inside. Granny assails them with psychic defences but they are useless as she cannot allow herself to harm the baby. They find her eventually, and it is clear she did not know that the invitation is stolen or that the baby is named after her. However, they are unable to convince her to return. Nanny goes back inside once they have left, and Granny admits to her that she cannot defeat the vampires. Their minds are too powerful.

Having returned to Nanny's cottage the witches reluctantly hold a coven meeting. Suddenly they notice one of the blue men, and Nanny recognises it. It is a Nac mac Feegle, a member of a tribe of tiny pixies. It knows Nanny, and so the witches gain a powerful ally; pixies are as strong as humans, but more compact. Nanny offers them legal possession of an island in Lancre's largest lake in return for protecting King Verence from the vampires. The witches decide to do something about the vampires; that night, they are to break in. Nanny has her sons Jason and Shawn organise a mob to storm the castle gates as a distraction.

 

Secretly slipping in, Nanny finds Hodgesaargh. He tells her that the door to the kitchen is locked from the inside. They want holy water (blessed by Oats) to throw at the vampires, and so Agnes has to go round to unlock it. However, she runs into Vlad who takes her to see the portraits of his ancestors. One of them is of Igor's past master whom he reveres so. Suddenly, Agnes smashes a bottle of holy water she has been hiding into Vlad's chest, but it only ruins his waistcoat. Nevertheless, he is angry to this end.

The Count arrives and tells Vlad there is a mob at the gates. In the distraction, Agnes slips away and unlocks the door to the kitchen, letting in Nanny and Magrat.

Meanwhile, Oats frantically searches his tent for information on vampire slaying. Eventually, he goes to the castle and meets the witches there.

The Count puts an influence on the mob at the gates, and they cease their belligerence. Suddenly, as a last resort, the witches arrive to attack the Count. Suddenly, the door bursts open and Granny Weatherwax arrives, challenging the Count to a duel. In the ensuing battle, Magrat and Nanny escape one way and Agnes and Oats another. Agnes and the priest debate what to do when suddenly the doors fly open and Granny Weatherwax is thrown out. She has been bitten. Agnes and Oats pick her up and carry her somewhere safe.

Verence is in his bed, in a trance, when suddenly a horde of Nac mac Feegle enter and carry him away.

While Granny is carried to the safety of the mews, Magrat and Nanny find Igor and convince him that they are on his side; he has had enough of the Magpyrs.

Hodgesaargh's phoenix feather is burning brightly as it passes by Granny; it burns in the presence of evil. The old witch comes to and asks for iron, and so she is taking to the castle forge next door. She grabs the anvil and forces her pain into it. She warns the others to be on their guard as she is not sure how long she can control her mind. She sends Agnes away, so she leaves and meets Vlad, who suddenly picks her up and jumps into Lancre gorge with her...

Granny comes to in the desert dead souls must cross. Death arrives, but when she asks if she is dying he does not give her a straight answer. Left alone inside her own mind, she begins to fight with some very powerful inner demons...

Magrat and Nanny board the vampires' coach and Igor sets off for the castle in Uberwald. It is the only place they can get to as the road down to the Sto Plains is flooded.

The Nac mac Feegle take Verence to their underground lair, where they shoot away the vampires' influence with a magic arrow. They then make him sign a document allowing them possession of the island Nanny Ogg promised them.

Granny wakes up and asks Hodgesaargh about the phoenix, and he tells her that it killed itself. Oats refuses to believe him, as he thinks that the phoenix is a mythical creature and even if it did exist it cannot lay eggs. Hodgesaargh refutes this, saying that if (as Oats claims) there is only one phoenix at a time it would not be able to breed. For one a myth is not true; although rare, the phoenix is still an established species. Granny is not as sceptical and tells him to fetch the fragments of shell he found. She tells him that the fragments are not all from the same egg; there is a second firebird in the kingdom somewhere. She sends him to take an inventory of his birds, and he come back with having found an extra wowhawk. She takes it, and has it hooded. She then guesses that Nanny would have taken Magrat and her baby to Uberwald. She has Oats make his mule ready; they are going to the vampire country.

In the coach, Nanny and Magrat debate Granny's survival. They know her trick is to take the essence of her being and place it in a living creature. The question here is what she placed her mind in. Magrat is convinced she is in her baby, and Nanny assures her that if this is the case no harm will come to the child.

King Verence meets Big Aggie, the Nac mac Feegle's Kelda (chieftain). She gives him some special potion to drink, that will apparently make him fight. Agnes finds herself flying in the sky with Vlad. She is speechless. Another vampire, Morbidia, flies alongside and tells Vlad that their father is sending them to the Uberwald town of Escrow, as they are not established in Lancre well enough to feed off the population. He is eager to show her Escrow; he says it is an example of how vampires and humans can live in harmony.

The going is difficult for Granny and Oats. Oats is annoyed by a debate on religion, but soon this issue becomes irrelevant as the ground becomes very slippery. A fire is needed, and in the rain there is only one option.

Nanny and Magrat arrive at the castle in Uberwald and Igor introduces them to his dog Scraps-made of different body parts, just like Igor is. They arm themselves with wooden stakes, and prepare to fight for their lives.

Verence drinks the elixir he is given and immediately goes into a fighting frenzy, hacking his way out of the Nac mac Feegle's lair. On the Kelda's bidding the pixies follow him to make sure he doesn't hurt himself.

The vampires land in Escrow, and Vlad tells Agnes she will understand.

Granny sends Oats away to find a walking stick, and while he is away she sees that he has had to burn his holy book to give them light and warmth. Although Oats mule has long since deserted them, they still have the wowhawk, which can fly perfectly even though it is hooded.

The Escrow folk are lined up in the town square, while Vlad and the Count proudly show Agnes how far they have come-even though the people are clearly terrified. Suddenly, something goes wrong-the vampires cannot seem to attack properly. Even though they cannot explain this, the people attack. Agnes, however, is in trouble: Vlad lunges at her and bites.

Granny and Oats carry on, again debating Omnianism.

Agnes feels herself becoming a vampire, but then hears Granny Weatherwax's voice for a moment, before coming round. She has to fight to convince the person sitting on top of her with a hammer and stake that she is not a vampire-although she cannot explain why. She does, however, have a strange desire for tea. The townspeople set off to follow the vampires.

The mob is not having luck at the castle-the vampires' servants are defending it. Suddenly the King arrives, but even in his mania he cannot break down the main doors. Eventually, Shawn lures the servants out into the fray by firing a flaming arrow into the gong tower, in which all the castle's privies drain into.

The entire vampire clan lurches erratically towards the Magpyr castle; their powers of flight are failing them. The Count, however, is confident all will be well. As they near the castle, Igor hurls a bottle of holy water at them. It his one vampire, who suddenly bursts into flames and is pushed over the drawbridge by Vlad. Nanny Ogg throws garlic at them, and to the Count's surprise it burns to the touch. Using his ability to control the weather, the Count breaks into the castle with a well aimed lightning bolt.

Granny and Oats reach the castle. The wowhawk is now becoming agitated, and its leather hood is now smoking and catching fire. Granny Weatherwax prepares to release the phoenix.

Nanny, Magrat and Igor manage to kill a few vampires but soon their stakes, garlic and holy water are running out. Suddenly, a huge fireball cascades through the castle, decimating the vampires but leaving the witches unharmed. Nanny rushes out to see what happened-and sees the phoenix, the size of a house, burning in the sky.

The Count is having family problems. Their immunity is wearing off, and they are all craving cups of tea. The Count is at a loss to explain it to them. As the giant phoenix swoops around outside killing more and more vampires, Nanny asks Igor where Magrat and the baby are. Igor tells her that she is in the cellar, guarded by Scraps. Suddenly, they hear the dog howl...

Magrat is having problems of her own. The Countess is in mist form, seeping through the keyhole. However, Magrat simply lets the mist collect in a jar, drops in some garlic cloves, and drops the jar down a well leading to the castle's underground river. However, the Count follows behind and easily breaks the door down.

Having discovered Magrat gone, Nanny and Igor (who is mourning the death of Scraps) follow. The Count has Magrat and the baby captured in the great hall when Granny Weatherwax comes in for the final confrontation.

Igor has had enough. He enters the crypt, in which lies the remains of his old master, and allows a tiny drop of blood to fall onto them...

Granny reveals what she has done. She did not place herself in the baby, or anywhere else. She put it in herself, and then allowed the vampires to take it. They are filled with her own influence, which explains their craving for tea. As they are no longer able to harm the baby or Magrat (as Granny would not be able to bring herself to do) the Counts threats have no power. Suddenly, the cloud of mist that has been growing in the room becomes the old Count, much to Igor's delight. He takes hold of the now powerless Vlad and Lacrimosa. Meanwhile Oats arrives with an axe and, to the Count's surprise, manages to swing it into his neck. The Count, now forcing his head not to fall from his shoulders, cannot stop Magrat escaping with her baby. Granny watches as the old Count takes the Magpyrs away to punish them as he sees fit. At that moment, the Lancrastian mob arrives-too late to fight any battles.

With King Verence suffering from the biggest hangover of his life, they go home.

Later, Oats performs a service for Lancre. The whole of Lancre Town turns up to watch. In the sky meanwhile flies the phoenix, is flames almost invisible in the daylight. After the service Oats declines an offer from Verence to become the chief priest of Lancre, stating that he is going into Uberwald.

That night, in Uberwald, Igor's experiments with Scraps' body and a lightning rod mean that Death must give the dog back to the living world...and in Lancre, Granny sits in her cottage, letting whoever be watching that SHE STILL ATE'NT DEAD!


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