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"Lord John and the Succubus" is a novella in the Lord John Series by Diana Gabaldon that was originally published in Legends II: Short novels by the Masters of Modern Fantasy (an anthology, ed. Robert Silverberg). In 2007, the novella was included along with two others in the collection Lord John and the Hand of Devils.

PlotEdit

Acting as English liaison to the Imperial Fifth Regiment of Hanoverian Foot, Major Lord John Grey finds himself in the town of Gundwitz during the Seven Years' War, and drawn into investigating a series of mysterious deaths among the encamped German and English soldiers. The local rumor is that a succubus is to blame, but Grey chooses logic and reason over superstition, and pursues a line of inquiry into the deaths of an English private and a Hanoverian soldier, as well as the involvement of the nearby gypsy population and a local saint by the name of Orgevald. Grey must also contend with his increasingly ambiguous relationship with Stephan von Namtzen, as well as the unwanted attentions of a Prussian princess.

SummaryEdit

In September 1757, John Grey is in Prussia, acting as the English liaison to the Imperial Fifth Regiment of Hanoverian Foot. He is living with the Princess Louisa von Lowenstein, a local noblewoman and her mother-in-law the Dowager Princess von Lowenstein.

He is called to mediate a dispute between the English Private Bodger and a local gypsy who claims that Private Bodger underpaid her for sex.

Minutes after he's returned to his office, Lord John is interrupted by Stephan von Namtzen and Herr Blomberg, an important city official. The city has been plagued by a "succubus" of late, and Blomberg wishes to borrow Lord John's white horse to discover it. The locals believe that the succubus is possessing the body of someone in the churchyard, and that a white horse can identify the offending body.

That night, Lord John, Stephan, Tom, Blomberg, and a handful of local men go to the graveyard, where Lord John's rides his reluctant horse, Karolus, through the graveyard. All goes well until Karolus is spoked by the body of Private Bodger, propped up against a gravestone. As the men discuss Private Bodger's unexpected demise, Karolus wanders over to the grave of Herr Blomberg's mother, thereby indicting her as the succubus.

While on his way up to bed after dinner, Lord John runs into Siegfried von Lowenstein, the young son of Louisa von Lowenstein. "Siggy" claims that there was a witch in his room, and Lord John comforts him. After seeing a ladder leaning against Siggy's bedroom window and noticing that his nurse has disappeared, Lord John and the other adults conclude that someone attempted to kidnap Siggy.

Grey later visits the strategically important bridge at Aschenwald, which separates the French from the German and English troops. There, he dines with the men guarding it. Just as Grey is leaving, one of the men makes a comment about the gypsies nearby. An alarmed Grey immediately asks whether the gypsies have been seen speaking to the French, but the men do not know.

At dinner that night, Grey tells the others of his findings. He also admires Stephan von Namtzen, though he's still unsure as to whether the man is flirting with him. In his chamber that night, Louisa von Namtzen visits John and kisses him. Von Namtzen walks in on them and leaves quickly.

Tom tells Lord John that the Siggy's nursemaid, Hannah Koenig, has still not returned, and that she was the wife to Private Koenig, the succubus's first victim. The rumour among the servants is that Private Koenig is the true father of Louisa von Lowenstein's son Siggy.

When Lord John visits the home where Koenig was quartered, owned by Herr Hückel and his wife Margarethe. Frau Hückel tells Lord John that the woman who killed Private Koenig had long white braids.

When Lord John visits the bridge at Aschenwald the next morning, he finds that a group of soldiers near the French lines were ambushed by Austrian soldiers. One of the survivors, Lieutenant Dundas, tells Lord John that French and Austrians had deliberately started the succubus rumour, in the hopes of rendering the other side demoralized and sleep-deprived. Local gypsy women had been recruited to slip opium into the drinks of German and English soldiers, inducing erotic dreams in those soldiers and mass panic in the ranks at large.

Meanwhile, Herr Blomberg has summoned a witch, in the hope that she can cast runes that will exonerate his late mother (who is still suspected of being the succubus by many of the townspeople).

Lord John recognizes the "witch" as the same woman who argued with Private Bodger, and offers her her freedom in exchange for the story of his death. She defiantly tells Lord John that Private Bodger dies of apoplexy.

However, Lord John also notices that she has an emblem of St. Ogvegald, the same saint chosen by the Dowager Princess. Upon questioning the woman, she admits to being the sister of Hannah Koenig and to murdering Private Koenig. She also admits to conspiring with the Dowager Princess to temporarily kidnap Siggy. Lord John leaves the woman to her devices, asking only that she exonerate Herr Blomberg's mother before she disappears again.

On the morning of the Austrian and French invasion, Stephan von Namtzen tells Lord John he plans to marry Louisa later that year. Lord John wishes him luck in battle and the pair part on good terms.

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