The L-Space Web: Books: Synopses

Pyramids


Written by Ed

Book One - The Book Of Going Forth

It is high summer in Ankh-Morpork, and the Djelibeybian trainee assassin Teppicymon (or Teppic) is preparing for his final exam. All is not well; he is incredibly nervous, and has a blinding headache. After getting dressed in the assassin's uniform with a great deal of theatre, Teppic makes his way onto the rooftops where he meets his instructor, Mericet. After a rapid fire round of questions, Teppic is ordered to progress across the city and inhume his target. As he moves off, he wonders about the examination-will he have to inhume a real person, or just a dummy? Suddenly, however, he discovers too late that a vital plank of wood has been removed from his route and he plunges down towards the ground, triggering a series of flashbacks of his journey from his ancestral homeland of Djelibeybi to Ankh-Morpork and his subsequent seven-year training as an assassin. The first memory is of how he left his father, the Pharaoh, and his family aged thirteen. He recalls the stuck-up priest Dios' haughty reaction to his refusal to take a retinue of with him.

He remembers first arriving at the Assassin's Guild, and thinking of his future, and then of arriving in his dormitory and meeting his classmate Chidder.

At this point Teppic manages to rescue himself from his fall, and clambers up a wall to the window he was aiming for, and proceeds to score a hole in the glass.

He remembers telling Chidder about his homeland-it is the ritual that all dead nobles are buried in huge pyramids, which now form the backbone of the Djelibeybian economy. After seven thousand years one whole side of the river Djel has been transformed into a huge necropolis, a city of the dead, beaten in size only by Ankh- Morpork itself.

Teppic continues and finds, against all reason, that Mericet is ahead of him.

He remembers his first night in the dorm of Viper house. Most of the children had said their prayers before going to sleep...apart from one particularly pious classmate, Arthur, who tries to sacrifice a goat at the foot of the bed. He is attacked by the class bully, Cheesewright, but is rescued by Chidder. Teppic consoles him when the goat escapes, leaving him to believe that his god, Orm, will have him executed.

He recalls one of his lessons.

He finally enters the building containing the target, and watched by Mericet, attempts to muster the courage to shoot the blanketed figure.

He recalls his lessons in Political Expediency with Lady T'Malia, the most loved woman in the guild. After the lesson, Chidder tells of his father's occupation: clearly smuggling, however cryptically Chidder attempts to phrase it.

Teppic finally decides that he does not have the courage after all, and, in a gesture of insurrection fires the crossbow at the wall...where it pings off, ricochets around the room and hits the target. To his shock, Teppic passes.

At One o'clock in the morning, Teppic is at street level when he meets Chidder, who has also passed. So has Arthur, although Cheesewright has not. The three of them go for a celebratory drink.

 

In Djelibeybi, the King Teppicymon XXVII is depressed. He knows his followers believe he is a god, and he believes it himself. He knows that somehow he makes the sun rise, but he does not know how. His last action is to leap from the balcony of his palace, believing he can fly.

The sun is rising in Ankh-Morpork, where Teppic is trying some Counterwise wine, which accounts for the hangunder he was experiencing before the test. The sun rises...and there is something coming with it...

Death appears and tells the king's spirit that he is to become a ghost. He explains that while his followers believe in him, when balanced with the non-belief of the rest of the Disc's population he can only manage demi-god status (belief being a reality-altering force on the Disc).

The divine part of the King enters his son Teppic in the form of a giant seagull, and the youth is instantly affected. He falls into a trance, and life starts to spring from his touch. Chidder and Arthur carry him away, with plants sprouting from the ground at his footsteps.

Dios, High Priest of Djelibeybi, watches as the King's body is taken away. He is confident that his son will be called back to his birthplace. The priest is feeling older, and resolves to visit the necropolis...

In fact, Teppic is at a Doctor's surgery. He is pronounced dead, which is confusing since he is still very much alive. He seems to know everything, and has an overwhelming urge to return to Djelibeybi.

The King's body is being embalmed by the master Dil and his apprentice Gern. The ghost of King Teppicymon watches his body at the bottom of a tank of embalming fluid and regrets his country's whole belief system.

After many days, a boat arrives at the docks in Djelibeybi. From it comes Teppic, wading up the shore to take over his kingdom.

Book Two - The Book Of The Dead

After two weeks, Teppic is having trouble settling into his new life. This is because of his boredom; life in Djelibeybi seems to consist of nothing but ritual, which is usually carried out by Dios, who is fundamentally opposed to any change in the Kingdom. This may explain why the feather mattress that Teppic has ordered from Ankh-Morpork has mysteriously failed to arrive. Also the flarelight from the pyramids keep him awake (pyramids store up time and flare it off as light at dusk-the idea being that the dying king inside is kept in a state of null time and never actually dies. This will be detailed later.).

Teppic is being ceremoniously dressed by Dios in order to pay a visit to the embalming chamber, where Dil and Gern are continuing with the work, watched forlornly by the ghost of the King. On the way, Dios points out to Teppic the hieroglyphics on the walls. Here, Teppic notices that the priest would rather avoid using the past tense...

They enter the embalming chamber and see the embalmed body. The ghost of the King tries to tell Teppic that their religion business is not what it has cracked up to be, and that he would rather not have a pyramid. Dios however relays more suitable messages from beyond the grave, viz, the King is happy, he wishes his son good fortune, and would like the biggest pyramid ever.

Next on the itinerary is a visit to Ptaclusp, pyramid architect. There, Dios orders the construction of the biggest pyramid ever devised, to be completed in record time. They then return to the palace by dusk, and stand on the balcony watching the pyramids flare. Teppic jokingly asks if Dios will have a pyramid built for him, and is surprised to learn that the priest has a pyramid built already.

In Ptaclusp's home, the architect is being berated by his sons Ptaclusp IIa and IIb. IIa is an accountant, and he knows that neither they nor the kingdom can afford to build such a huge pyramid. IIb, on the other hand, is a 'paracosmic architect' and is more excited about the physics of the project.

A few days later, Teppic and Dios visit the construction site of the pyramid, where blocks are being floated into place (ED: The power of charm, perhaps?). Dios is uncomfortable about Teppic acting informally, and this becomes an emergency when the youth shakes a hand of one of the workers. Later, Teppic learns that the Djelibeybian religion states that the hand must be amputated.

Soon afterwards, the Ptaclusps notice strange effects: the pyramid is so big that it is randomly altering time even though it is not completed; Ptaclusp IIb explains this by stating that the completed pyramid (in the future) is thrusting random time effects back to the present. This takes the effect of one of the worker's lunches rotting away in an instant, as well as some time looping. This gives Ptaclusp an idea...

Meanwhile, Teppic is attending a meeting between delegates from the neighbouring countries of Tsort and Ephebe. Teppic learns that the only factor preventing the two countries from going to war with each other is that Djelibeybi is in the way.

The next day, Teppic attends court. He listens carefully and proclaims a fair judgement, which Dios then alters depending on the subjects' piety rather than actual law. The last case is that of the handmaiden Ptraci, accused of refusing to take the ceremonial poison so that she can be buried with the King. Dios sentences her to be thrown to the huge crocodiles in the river Djel. Shocked by this, Teppic resolves to do something.

That night, Teppic puts his assassin training to good use y breaking into the prison and rescuing Ptraci, who seems to have more free will than the rest of the country's population. They run for it, but the sun begins to rise. Teppic hides Ptraci in the embalming chamber, promising to return at nightfall. He then departs for the day's business.

 

That morning, Dios tells Teppic that Ptraci has escaped. She and her rescuer are to be hunted down.

Again Dios and Teppic visit the embalming chamber as part of the duties. Dios takes the opportunity to search the caskets for Ptraci, but she has moved. The ghost of the king tries to tell Teppic where she is, but goes quite unheeded. Afterwards they visit the pyramid workings, where Dios search for Ptraci also proves fruitless. When they have left, it is revealed that the Ptaclusps are using the time effect to duplicate themselves so as to reduce the staff and increase productivity.

At this point it is explained that the art of pyramid tuning has been lost; the original idea was that they, dams in the flow of time, would store the time in the central chamber only and flare it off at night. However, now the pyramids are sucking up all the time in the kingdom. This explains why there has been almost no progress for seven thousand years.

Night comes and Teppic goes to rescue Ptraci. The ghost of the king says that she is in fact his half sister-apparently her mother was the King's favourite handmaiden. Teppic rescues her.

Meanwhile, at the pyramid workings, all is not well. The pyramid is now placing the dimensions under immense stress: it is accumulating time, but without the capstone it cannot flare. With no other option, Ptaclusps two sons climb the pyramid with the capstone held between them.

In the stables, Teppic and Ptraci have found a camel (who is incidentally the greatest mathematician in the world) and try to leave when they are found by Dios and the guards. He is about to order their execution when the ground starts to shake as a result of the pyramid and Teppic and Ptraci make good their escape.

The pyramid finally snaps under the pressure, and discharges in a huge explosion of time. It appears to twist round through ninety degrees.

Meanwhile, Ptraci and Teppic have escaped into the desert. They look behind them and find the whole country has mysteriously vanished...into its own set of dimensions, where all the Djelibeybian gods are starting to come to life...

Book Three - The Book Of The New Son

Teppic and Ptraci are becoming rather distressed about the disappearance of Djelibeybi, which can still be glimpsed briefly when they quickly move their heads across the small fault line that now joins the two countries Ephebe and Tsort, which had hitherto sat either side of the Old Kingdom. Needing water and shelter, and lacking any other alternative, they head off towards Ephebe.

Back in Djelibeybi, Ptaclusp is sorting through the debris caused by the pyramid's discharge and finds his sons. IIb had been thrown clear, but his brother was at the epicentre of the explosion and finds his body twisted through the dimensions, so to him every dimension is different to everyone else's. The effect is that he has no depth whatsoever and ages by walking sideways. As the sun rises, they notice more problems: the Djelibeybians have many different beliefs with regards to how the sun travels; pushed by a dung beetle, carried on a boat, etc. Now that their beliefs are coming true, all the different sun god are jockeying for possession of the sun.

Teppic and Ptraci arrive in Ephebe and encounter two philosophers, Ibid and Xeno, who are attempting to prove that tortoises can outrun a flying arrow. They are not having much success.

As the Djelibeybian priests sit gloomily watching their gods materialise and wreak devastation, their presence is explained. Belief is a powerful force on the Discworld, and that which is believed in strongly enough becomes real. When competing with the general consensus of belief of the rest of the world, the isolated religion of this tiny country is not potent enough to manifest itself. Now occupying its own set of dimensions, the country's religion now stands for all of the belief in the universe that it now occupies. The result is that without other beliefs to water them down, the gods are appearing en masse. Dios is not taking this well. The gods, to him, are a mere necessity, and should not be allowed to interfere with his kingdom. They are upsetting the complex daily rituals that he lives his life by. The other priests are of no help, and are spending their time commentating on the result of the war that the sun gods are now waging on each other. Anyone who points out that the gods don't really exist in physical form finds themselves thrown to the crocodiles in the Djel.

After much discussion with the philosophers, who are rather single minded, Teppic is invited to the weekly Ephebian symposium. There he will be able to meet the greatest geniuses on the Disc, where he can have his questions answered.

King Teppicymon XXVII awakes, suddenly returned to his embalmed body (the religion dictates that life after death begins fully after mummification). He blindly searches the embalming chamber, looking for the pot that Dil and Gern have placed his eyes in. Finally he locates them and inserts them, and only then discovers that the embalmer and his apprentice are also present and are watching him with horror. After a friendly conversation to dispel their horror, the King has a thought of his own: if he can be returned to his body, then so can the spirits of the thousands of mummies inhabiting pyramids in the giant Necropolis...

After listening to a coma-enducing anecdote told by Copolymer, reported to be the greatest storyteller in the world, and meeting Endos the Listener (a man paid to listen to people and tell them how fantastic their ideas are) Teppic finally meets Pthagonal. He is a mathematician, and perhaps the person who can explain the disappearance of the Old Kingdom. He almost gets it right. What has happened is this: the art of pyramid building has been lost, so that pyramids now suck up all the time that enters Djelibeybi. This accounts for seven thousand years of no progress; they are simply living on recycled time. The fact that pyramids exist in such vast quantities means that some serious strain is placed on the dimensions of this universe, and the size and scale of the great pyramid has finally tipped the scales and the universe has automatically sealed Djelibeybi away into its own set of dimensions where it can do no harm to the rest of creation. The pyramid turning through ninety degrees has the effect of swapping the dimensions around, thus removing Djelibeybi from this universe and into another one where the switched dimensions are physical reality. Teppic resolves to return and save the country.

He meets Ptraci outside and tells her he is going to try to return. He does not want her to risk the journey, and intends to send her to safety in Ankh-Morpork. They go to the docks, where they encounter a friendly face-Chidder.

Chidder has apparently inherited his father's smuggling racket. He has a boat, the Unnamed, which is designed to look a lot more cumbersome and slow than it actually is. He invites them on board for a lavish meal, where Ptraci instantly makes herself at home by identifying the crew's filthy tattoos. Teppic gets rather drink during the course of the evening, and in an alcohol-fuelled dream he meets Khuft, founder of the kingdom. He is reminded that he is, to his people, a god. In a bout of patriotism, he decides to embark on his quest. He leaps over the rail and swims away.

 

Teppic goes to the Ephebian stable yards, where he takes back his camel and rides away into the desert.

In the Necropolis, the King has Gern break into the pyramid of his grandmother. Her mummy emerges, and together they continue down the city of the dead, attempting to release all the mummies who have come to life and are trapped in their tombs.

In the desert, Teppic passes an Ephebian garrison. Since Ephebe and Tsort were only at peace because Djelibeybi was between them, now that they are now adjacent to each other they are technically at war. They are gathering on the new border, and have the same battle strategy: both sides are constructing herds of wooden horses. Both countries believe that if their enemies are stupid enough to think that they will fool them, then their enemies are certainly stupid enough to be fooled themselves.

Teppic arrives at the border, having deliberately denied his camel any water. Maddened by thirst, the beast manages to enter the crack in the ground and Teppic can return to his kingdom.

Book Four - The Book Of 101 Things A Boy Can Do

In the land between the realities, Teppic wanders amongst a misty plain piled with bones. There is clearly something out there...the Sphinx, in fact, who ambushes Teppic and presses him with a traditional riddle. Failure will mean death, but Teppic is able to confuse the Sphinx into answering the question for him and he escapes back to Djelibeybi.

From the palace, the priests' arguments are ceased suddenly when hundreds of mummies are seen marching past. They all arrive at the oldest pyramid: that of Khuft. They enter, and find it empty. Apparently he has already escaped. The pyramid was built before the knowledge was lost, and they are shocked to find that the torches on the walls are burning backwards...

Teppic returns to the river valley and finds that the people's belief that he is a god is manifesting itself. Grass and shoots are springing from his footsteps, just like back in Ankh-Morpork. He uses his new power to part the waters of the Djel and cross to the Necropolis, heading towards the great pyramid. Meanwhile, the mummies are making a combined effort to decipher the hieroglyphics in Khuft's tomb. It apparently gives the secret of pyramid building, but arguments prevent them from deciphering it fully. Giving up, they head off to the great pyramid. Teppic is on his way also.

Teppic meets Ptaclusp and orders him to flare off the pyramid, thus releasing the pressure and returning Djelibeybi to the Discworld. Ptaclusp protests that this is impossible, as the sharp point of the capstone was melted away when the pyramid discharged. Teppic begins to climb the pyramid himself.

Down below. Dios confronts the mummies. Shockingly, he is recognised by all the mummies, and his secret is revealed: he is in fact seven thousand years old, and the only priest that the Djelibeybi has ever had. He has staved of death by sleeping in his pyramid, thus restoring his lifetime. He has remained alive to stop Djelibeybi changing; he is fanatically opposed to progress, brought on by seven thousand years of daily ritual.

It is then that they notice Teppic, steadily climbing the pyramid. Dios wants to stop him, but the mummies team up to help him by creating a human (sort of) pyramid (so to speak) lift him up to the top, where he inserts his knife in the top of the pyramid, providing the sharp point from which it can flare...

The pyramid twists back round again, returning the country to the world. Then the great building explodes, badly damaging several other pyramids. Teppic is protected by the flare itself, in the same way that it is possible to stand directly under a fountain without getting wet. Dios, however, was hit by the full force of the flare and is nowhere to be seen.

The Ephebian and Tsortean armies look on in awe as Djelibeybi rematerialises in front of them. The war has been called off at the last minute.

 

As Teppic grudgingly retakes his place as King, a large, ornate and surprisingly fast boat drops anchor in the river delta...

He is thus happily surprised when Chidder returns, with Ptraci. Soon afterwards, Teppic makes a snap decision: he now knows that he is Ptraci's brother, and has decided to abdicate.

Ptraci therefore takes up office. She seems surprisingly resistant to the rituals that Hoot Koomi ( Dios' successor) tries to impose upon her. He is also having trouble dealing with a possible romance between her and Chidder.

In fact, life is looking better all round. The Ptaclusps are finally allowed to build bridges over the Djel, and Dil seems to have plans himself...Meanwhile, Death finally arrives to claim the lives of the kings and queens of Djelibeybi. Teppic finally departs on his camel.

Dios awakes, in the empty river valley. He wonders where the kingdom has gone, and suddenly sees a figure cresting the dunes...he has been time looped, thrust back to the beginning of the Kingdom by the flaring pyramid. The man is obviously Khuft, and, happily, Dios goes to meet him and begin the saga of Djelibeybi all over again.


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