Mort is the fourth Discworld book by Terry Pratchett, and the first book to feature Death, the anthropomorphic personification of death, as a lead character. The book takes place on the Discworld, a flat, magic-filled planet that rests on the backs of four enormous elephants that ride through space on the back of a gigantic space turtle named Great A'Tuin.
Mort, a skinny, awkward teenager, is taken by his father to a job fair to be selected as someone's apprentice. Everyone else is picked before nightfall, but Mort stays behind until midnight. At midnight, Death rides in on a white steed and hires Mort. His father, unable to comprehend Death, assumes he has been apprenticed to an undertaker.
Mort is taken to Death's Realm, an area outside time and space created by Death as a place to keep Binky, the horse, and the hourglasses of life for each person on the Disc. Mort is instructed to clean out Binky's stable, to help Albert (Death's butler) with the gardening and to get to know Ysabell, Death's (adopted) daughter.
Death begins to take Mort with him as he performs "The Duty," the act of ushering souls on to the next life. Death explains that he only shows up in person for big events, like plagues and the deaths of royalty, and for those who do magic, such as wizards and witches. Death begins to send Mort out alone to do "The Duty," taking his first day off in eternity.
Sparing Princess Kali
On his first solo trip, Mort saves Princess Kali, whom he is attracted to, from an assassination. This creates a small tear in space/time, as someone who was supposed to die does not. At a loss of what to do, Mort returns to Death's realm to apologize for potentially destroying the world and messing up his responsibilities.
To better understand humanity, Death undertakes several pastimes some consider to be "fun," such as fly fishing, binge drinking and gambling, finally finding happiness as a short-order cook at a rib restaurant. As he spends more time among humans, Death begins to take on human traits. Conversely, the longer he spends doing "The Duty," the more Mort becomes like Death.
With Death no longer telling Mort which souls to collect, it is up to Albert and Ysabell to determine which souls need reaping that day. Mort and Ysabell find out that Albert is a powerful wizard that, fearing death, became Death's butler so that he may never die. Mort forces Albert to help him save Princess Kali from the rip in space/time.
Mort vs. Death
Albert casts a spell to summon Death from his vacation, and in doing so removes Death's influence over Mort and humanity's influence over Death. To save the princess and her court wizard, Igneous Cutwell, from the healing rip in space/time, Mort brings them to Death's realm. No longer under the influence of human emotions, Death threatens to kill them all. Mort challenges Death to a dual for their lives. Mort loses, but Death spares them and sends Mort, Ysabell, Kali and Cutwell safely back to the Disc.
Mort and Ysabell get married and are made the Duke and Duchess of Sto Helit by (now queen) Kali. Death promises to stay out of the affairs of humans, unless it is his specific business.
- "Mort"; Terry Pratchett; 1987
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