The L-Space Web: Books: Synopses

Wyrd Sisters


Written by Ed

On a moor in the rainy country of Lancre, three witches hold a coven meeting. They are the fearsome Granny Weatherwax, the easy-going Nanny Ogg and the timid Magrat, and are doing nothing more than following tradition. Up in the castle, however, a sinister plot is afoot: King Verence lies dead, murdered by his cousin, Duke Felmet. Death comes to him, and tells him that instead of moving on he is destined to become a ghost and haunt the castle. As Death leaves, Verence remembers his son.but after dashing to the baby's room he finds the cot smashed, and the child gone. Giving chase, he then discovers that he cannot leave the castle that he is doomed to haunt.

A coach crashes along towards the moor, pursued by three soldiers. The coachman sees the three witches and approaches them for help, but after thrusting a bundle into Granny Weatherwax's arms he is shot dead. The three soldiers converge on the witches, but Granny uses her considerable psychic powers to see them off. She then looks at what she has been given, and sees that it is a baby. She is wondering what to do when Magrat, inspecting the coach, finds a crown. Granny becomes uneasy at this, as it bears the mark of something big.

Verence is led through the castle by another ghost named Champot, also a former king of Lancre. To his dismay he learns that he cannot touch or eat anything, and that the crawling Felmet and is ferocious wife have now taken over the country and are ruling it. As the Duke is berated by is ever-angry wife, the castle Fool, cook and porter are in the cellars playing Cripple Mr Onion. It is instantly obvious that the Fool is more intelligent than he seems but this train of thought is disturbed by a knocking at the door-it is one of Felmet's soldiers, bringing warning of witches. The warning soon reaches the ears of Lord and Lady Felmet, and also to the spectral ears of the ex-king Verence.

At Magrat's cottage, the three witches discuss the matter of the baby. It is obvious the child is in danger, and must be protected. Suddenly, Granny Weatherwax is subjected to a force of induced magic, called to put the crown on. When she does so, she is subjected to a vision of battles on freezing fields.and realises that the crown must be hidden too. However, this will be more difficult as crowns call out to people's minds. As they discuss it, Magrat tells Granny and Nanny that there is a troupe of theatre players in the country, and so the witches go to see them.

In Lancre Castle, the Duke sends his tax gatherers to arrest the witches. He is angry with them for not paying taxes, and he hates the kingdom. Also, no matter how hard he scrubs, he cannot get the blood to wash off his hand. In fact, he is scrubbing so hard that he is beginning to cut himself.

After the play, Granny and Nanny go to see Vitoller, manager of the strolling players. In the pub, they convince him to adopt the baby, who has been named Tomjon. The baby will now be safe, and out of the country. Outside, the witches meet Magrat. She has successfully hidden the crowns with all the model ones in the player's prop box. They go back to Magrat's cottage where Nanny Ogg begins to suffer the effects of the alcohol she consumed in the pub. Magrat says that they should give the baby three gifts, as tradition states. However, they are unable to decide what to give him and so they all leave for their own homes, to give Tomjon their own gifts in their own ways.

Magrat eventually decides to give Tomjon the ability to make friends easily. Nanny Ogg, at home with her horrific cat Greebo, gives him a superb memory. Granny Weatherwax, arriving back at her own cottage, tells him to be whoever he thinks he is. At that moment she is found by the tax collectors.

Next day, the tax collector has to explain to Felmet that, instead of arresting the witches he and his men were taken inside and given a cup of tea and a bun. This vexes Felmet; the ghost of the king, who has been teaching himself to pick things up, has been over- salting his porridge. Also, no matter how hard the Duke scrubs more blood appears. In short, Felmet is gradually being driven insane. He summons is reluctant yet loyal Fool, who tells them about the position witches hold in society. The Fool is allowed to sleep on the flagstones outside the Duke's room that night.

At the next coven meeting, Granny, Nanny and Magrat exchange stories about Felmet's cruel hold of the country. They seldom involve themselves with affairs of state, but recognise that Felmet is not good for the country.

 

As the days go by, baby Tomjon begins to grow up. Always on the road with Vitoller's men, he still shows no sign of speaking.

Hogswatchnight comes, the night where witches are supposed to stay indoors. Granny obligingly has an early night, but while she is lying in bed she senses some other presence inside her head. She cannot identify it, but she knows that it is big. Throwing caution to the wind, she heads out.

The unseen presence also affects the castle, causing it to rattle and shake alarmingly. This almost pushes the Duke over the edge, and he desperately demands that the Fool think of a solution to the witches. The Fool suggests the use of rumour and propaganda.

Granny meets Magrat, who has also sensed it, up on the moor. Nanny Ogg was not asleep and so she knows nothing about it. Granny and Magrat go off to her house, where she is throwing a party. They escort Nanny to the washroom, where they tell her what has been going on. The three witches summon a demon to tell them what the entity is, and after some confusion the creature reveals that it is the country of Lancre itself, one huge mind made up from all the minds inside it.

Granny goes home and sees a convocation of woodland animals on her lawn. In their animal way they beg her to help them. She refuses, as she is not allowed to meddle.

 

Tomjon is growing up, and Vitoller is worried that he has not yet said a word. Suddenly, as Vitoller's dwarf playwright Hwel listens, Tomjon quotes a speech from one of the plays. It soon becomes apparent that Tomjon is a remarkably gifted actor.

Spring comes, and Verence still tries to remain as alive as possible while being dead. He is continuing to drive Felmet over the edge and is also almost able to move large objects-but he cannot do what he needs to do without help. Suddenly, one day, he sees that Nanny Ogg's cat has come to the castle. He recognises it as a witch's cat, and so traps it in one of the rooms and waits for Nanny Ogg to take the bait.

Lying in a meadow, the Fool meets Magrat for the first time. Although the painfully shy Fool flees, neither of them is able to forget each other.

At the next meeting, neither Nanny Ogg nor Magrat are able to concentrate. Nanny is worried about Greebo, who has not returned for two days. Magrat is thinking about the Fool, and surreptitiously asks after him. She makes it sound like a girl in the village wanted to know, but Granny and Nanny instantly know the truth. At this, Magrat storms off. Granny and Nanny have an argument as well.

Later, Nanny Ogg makes up her mind to go and find Greebo, and so sets off for the castle. The Duke sees her coming, and in his manic paranoia assumes she is coming for him.

Having magically found out the Fool's real name, Magrat goes off into the woods searching for ingredients for a love potion. She meets Shawn Ogg, Nanny Ogg's son and a guard at the palace. He tells her in a panic that Nanny Ogg has been locked up. Magrat becomes incensed at the thought that Shawn feels safer with Granny Weatherwax than with her, and resolves to go to the castle to rescue Nanny herself.

In the dungeons Nanny Ogg is threatened by the Duke and his wife. However, their taunts do not upset Nanny in the slightest and so Duke Felmet has another little breakdown and is led away. Once they have gone, the ghost of King Verence steps out and introduces himself. They while away the time with a game of I Spy, but soon the Duke and Duchess return.

The news of Nanny's capture has spread, and a mob is appearing at the gates of the palace. Granny Weatherwax arrives and tricks her way inside, and then goes off into the castle. As the Duke and Duchess make ready to torture Nanny, Magrat arrives and gets in as well. She is caught by a couple of lecherous mercenaries but is rescued by the Fool, who takes her to Nanny's dungeons. She breaks in with magic, which impresses Granny Weatherwax who has been waiting in the shadows. The sight of the door turning into a tree unhinges the Duke yet again, but this time he rallies. He knows that Granny is powerless to stop him. She cannot meddle, as any king brought to power by magic will be a slave to the witches. The only true heir to the throne is three years old.

The witches leave the castle in a rage, but powerless. All Granny can do is disperse the mob at the gates. While they are returning home through the woods, the king steps out. As he is anchored to the stones of the castle, he has had Nanny Ogg take a piece of fallen mortar out with her so that he can leave. He begs Granny to help but she refuses, however much she wants to. Suddenly, a cart comes past and almost runs them down, and this pushes Granny over the edge. She dismisses the concerns of meddling; it is time to do something about Felmet.

At the castle, the Duke asks the Fool to think of a way of spreading malicious rumours about the witches. The Fool comes up with the idea of using theatre.

That night, the Fool goes to release Greebo. The cat drops on top of his head and refuses to budge, so the Fool goes off to deliver the beast to Magrat himself. Magrat is at that moment on the Moor, where Granny Weatherwax has a plan. She intends to alter time, so that Lancre is moved forward fifteen years. When it emerges from the time warp the rest of the world will have aged fifteen years, while Lancre remains unchanged. It will be like the country has been frozen in time. It will be the biggest spell any witch has ever performed. Nanny points out that this spell will require her to fly round the whole kingdom in one night, and no broomstick hold that much magic. Granny has thought of this as well; Nanny and Magrat will be waiting in strategic positions in the skies above Lancre, ready to refuel Granny's broomstick.

The Fool is hopelessly lost in the dark woods, with Greebo still on his head.

Magrat hovers in the sky, waiting for Granny. The old witch suddenly shoots past, so Magrat has to fly at top speed to catch up. She does so, and transfers the power in her broomstick into Granny's. Granny does not leave her enough magic to get down safely, so Magrat makes a crash landing-on top of the Fool.

Granny hurtles on towards Nanny, who is waiting inside a cloud. Granny catches up with her, but when she flies up from the wet cloud and up into the freezing air she shorts out her broomstick and has to be rescued by Nanny. Then, at full speed, they head for Lancre Bridge. She completes the spell as Magrat and the Fool share a kiss.which lasts fifteen years. The spell competed successfully, Granny is congratulated by Nanny and Verence. Meanwhile, the Fool breaks the news to Magrat that he has to go to Ankh- Morpork to find some players to make a play about Lancre. He doesn't want to, but he has to.

 

Tomjon has grown up, and is living in Ankh-Morpork. Vitoller has decided to settle down, and has ordered the construction of a theatre in the city. However, because of this, Vitoller is badly in debt. Hwel the playwright is desperately trying to write a new play to help ease the financial situation, but is not having any luck. Too depressed to think any more, he and Tomjon go out for a late night drink. Their first port of call is at the Mended Drum, where Hwel is harassed by a man with a dislike for dwarfs. He oversteps the mark by insulting the Librarian, who is sitting at the bar. In the resulting chaos, Tomjon and Hwel leave. In the streets, Tomjon rescues a man from the thieves-it turns out to be the Fool. As a thank you, the Fool agrees to pay for a pub crawl. Suddenly, Hwel notices the uncanny similarity between Tomjon and the Fool.

Eventually they end up blind drunk in a dwarf bar, where Tomjon lets slip that they are with the theatre. The Fool realises that these are the people they have come to see.

The Fool explains the situation back at Vitoller's office. Tomjon is keen to go, but Vitoller is reluctant to let the troupe spend the whole summer away. However, he badly needs the money to pay off his debts and so he agrees.

They make ready to go. Every night, Tomjon is watched by the witches in a crystal ball. The witches assume that he is coming because they have summoned him-they know nothing of the play. As the weeks go by the witches still look on him and protect the troupe from danger. Eventually they near Lancre, and are met by the witches who give them directions.

Having found out that they are there to stage a play, the witches resolve to see it. Magrat meets the Fool, who tells her when it is to be.

The night of the play arrives, and there is mayhem behind the scenes. People are forgetting lines, props are going missing, and there is general apprehension. However, the show goes on.

The witches suddenly see that the play is slandering them, and are at a loss about what to do. As the audience begin jeering them, they set off backstage-where Death stands, waiting to collect a soul.

The guards are under orders to arrest three witches, but accidentally arrest the actors playing them. The real witches are then sent out on stage. There is only one hope left: they use magic to alter the lines, and the actors start telling the crowd what really happened. The Duke and Duchess leap on stage and order the arrest of the witches, but they are stopped by the Fool. He was there when King Verence was murdered, and saw it all. This finally unhinges the Duke, and he runs away. The Granny uses some of her own magic on the Duchess to try and induce remorse for her crimes, but this fails and so she is simply locked up.

The Duke believes that he is a ghost, and runs around the castle wearing a sheet. Death follows him up to the battlements where he assures him that he is not dead. This changes, though, when the Duke slips and falls to his death in the Lancre Gorge.

Tomjon is made King of Lancre, but abdicates immediately. He does not want to be king. Magrat suddenly runs forward with Tomjon's half brother and the next in line-the Fool, whose real name is Verence. With the country returning to normal, Granny and Nanny settle down to the innocent pleasure of watching the new King attempting to court Magrat.


[Up]
This section is no longer actively being maintained. It is only kept online for historical purposes.

The L-Space Web is a creation of The L-Space Librarians
This mirror site is maintained by Leo Breebaart