Witcher Diaries #2: Tentacles and Corruption or Why Does Roche Keep Yelling At Me?
Spoiler Warning: These diaries will contain spoilers for The Witcher, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt by CD Projekt Red, possibly the books upon which they are based by Andrzej Sapkowski, and the comics from Dark Horse, depending on just how ambitious/obsessive I’m feeling.
Previously on The Witcher Diaries: Geralt proves his innocence to Vernon Roche following the assassination of King Foltest by another witcher. Accompanied by Roche and the sorceress Triss, Geralt of Rivia heads to the town of Flotsam, hot on the trail of the kingslayer, who is working with the Scoia’tael, the non-human rebels led by Iorveth.
One of the reasons I didn’t get very far in The Witcher is because I wasted an ungodly amount of time gambling. I could probably be further ahead in this game too, but well, monster slaying doesn’t pay as well as it used to. Dicing, fighting, and arm wrestling? That’s where the orens are at.
I said I wanted to zoom through this game in preparation for the third, but I feel that Geralt’s gambling habit is important to my roleplaying experience. Don’t take me to Vegas.
The main goal in Flotsam is to track the Scoia’tael connection to Letho, the kingslayer, but of course other things get in the way. There are always quests to pick up, and the villagers and traveling merchants have been complaining about that giant tentacled monster that’s preventing them from doing business. Tentacles. Whine whine whine. There’s also the problem of an obviously corrupt town commandant, Loredo. Geralt is already on Loredo’s bad side after turning the townsfolk against him to rescue Zoltan and Dandy, Geralt’s friends, who were about to be hanged. Still, Loredo is willing to let Geralt in on his secrets if Geralt is willing to compromise his morals here and there. After reading The Last Wish, where Geralt first appeared, I learned that Geralt is a man with his own set of morals and sense of justice. Just because he’s a monster hunter doesn’t mean he will simply kill all monsters, and he recognizes that people can be just as monstrous. Perhaps his own status as a human/monster hybrid makes him keenly aware of what it truly means to be a monster (that or the sterilization and/or gamma radiation).
On one particular quest, the villagers ask for help dealing with a troll by the bridge. A little investigation reveals that the troll used to both guard and fix the bridge, but now he just gets drunk and causes trouble. I went to visit said troll after negotiating a hefty price for his removal. After a brief struggle, the troll admits that he drinks to get rid of the pain of losing his mate, whom he found beheaded in their cave. Geralt promises to find her killers if the troll will stop drinking and get back to fixing the bridge. The killers turn out to be bandits working with Loredo, whose exploits are just getting worse and worse.
I also completed the quest “In the Claws of Madness,” where Geralt rescues two men from the ghosts and monsters haunting a ruined asylum. The notes and records I find along the way reveal an unpleasant situation with poorly treated patients, including a hysterical woman who, the notes reveal, was very likely raped by the guards before she slit one of their throats and escaped. Geralt finds the ghost of a Nilfgaardian soldier who wants revenge on his oppressors, and it becomes clear that the two men that have requested Geralt’s help are them. The ghost wants their eyes and hearts to lift the curse. I can trick the ghost or lure the men to their just punishment. This was a tough decision. I don’t like a Geralt who kills in cold blood, nor do I like letting monstrous humans get away with their crimes. I finally chose to hand the men over to the ghost. I certainly couldn’t trust them to the authorities of Flotsam.
I still have to deal with Loredo though, and he seems to have secret dealings with Síle de Tansarville, a powerful sorceress with whom Triss is on unfriendly terms. (Apparently all sorceresses know each other. I guess there’s a sorceress school? Club? I must research this.) Síle was hired to fight the kayran, the beast that attacks the harbour, and the witcher agrees to work with her to stop it—after negotiating a better price for himself, of course. Due to my poor stealth skills, I failed an opportunity to overhear a conversation between Síle and Loredo. Roche wasn’t welcome to this party, so when Geralt returns to him, there’s a lot of yelling from Roche again. This is a common theme. I don’t think Roche is ever not in a yell-y kind of mood.
A little bit of investigation reveals that the kayran is sick and mutated, but it’s still a menace, so in this case, Geralt isn’t hesitant about killing it. After learning how to fashion a potion to make himself immune to the kayran’s toxins from the poetic elf Cedric, Geralt and Síle venture off to dispatch the beast.
Síle displays her considerable powers, all while yelling instructions from above as Geralt does the dirty work. Apparently, all sorceresses are very powerful, but I learned from my friend Tiara that Triss is actually allergic to magic—an interesting twist. Síle has no such aversion and the kayran suffers for it. This is a challenging fight, even on easy mode. Timing is critical, because those tentacles hit hard, but with a few carefully placed magical signs and some skilled dodging, I got the job done and put the monster out of its misery.
With the monster destroyed, the people are a little more receptive to the witcher, whom they’d mostly been referring to as “the mutant” or “freak.” Still they have a healthy respect for his abilities as a witcher, while the non-humans are treated like scum.
Back to the main mission, Triss joins Geralt as they visit a prison barge at the docks. There, a dying Scoia’tael elf reveals that Letho betrayed the Scoia’tael and now wants Iorveth dead. He can’t or won’t tell them where Iorveth is, but another pressing matter befalls Geralt: more of his memories return to him. He remembers something about the Wild Hunt and Yennefer. Triss suggests that they find a rose of remembrance so that she can concoct a spell to help his memories return.
Triss leads him to some elven ruins and tells him of the legend of Eldan and Cymoril that states that when plucked the unique rose will wilt if sold or if not nourished with blood. If the flower is given to a loved one, it will live forever. I opt to have Geralt give it to Triss. D’awwww. Their moment is interrupted by bandits sent by Loredo to defile the ruins to find things to sell. Dispatching them results in Geralt and Triss falling through the ground where they find a beautiful bathhouse. I take full advantage of their moment of seclusion to let Geralt and Triss get it on. Geralt suggests that Triss needs a bath. She coyly uses her powers to oblige and then dives into the water…
Awkward pixel sex aside, this is now one of my favourite video game romance scenes. Geralt can have lots of meaningless sex in the Witcher games, but his relationship with Triss can be a very good one, built on mutual respect and affection, if you choose the appropriate dialogue options. This scene isn’t some random encounter, nor is it shoved into the story without context. Above, a group of Scoia’tael enter the ruins and the elf leader tells the tale Triss spoke of as the couple make love below. The look on the dwarf’s face? Priceless.
Post-coitus, Roche busts down the wall and starts yelling at Geralt again. Always with the yelling. He wants Geralt to return to tracking the kingslayer, but Triss wants to leave behind all of this trouble. Geralt warns her that he is still branded a murdered because of Letho’s actions, which will haunt them forever no matter where they flee. Geralt must speak with Iorveth to find out more, and apparently his friend Zolton has been holding out on him. Turns out that Zolton, while not a member of the Scoia’tael, is familiar enough with them to know their passwords. Face-to-face with Iorveth, Geralt convinces the very angry elf that Letho has betrayed him and that Geralt wants to help. Iorveth grudgingly agrees to the ruse of playing Geralt’s captive. They return to the elven ruins where Letho likes to have a nice sit and think.
Letho reveals that he has connections to Scoia’tael elsewhere and has likewise used their hate for humans to trick them into helping him. There are other kingslayers out there, Geralt learns, but all of this information is more than enough for Iorveth. He calls for his men as Roche and his soldiers arrive to attack. Geralt has a choice and he must make it quickly: help Roche or give Iorveth back his sword. I opt to give Iorveth his weapon. I’m sure Roche will yell at me about this later. During the ensuing battle, Letho and Geralt face off. The two witchers know each other quite well, though Geralt does not remember having saved Letho’s life as the kingslayer says. It’s this relationship that saves Geralt’s life, as Letho does not kill him when they duel. Instead, Letho leaves to find Triss whom he will force to teleport him to Aedirn. Geralt hurries off to save her, but finds the town of Flotsam in chaos. The Scoia’tael have attacked and the humans are beating any non-humans they find. I use Geralt’s persuasion skills to save them as he searches for Triss. His bard friend Dandy joins him and they head to Síle’s room where they find the sorceress’ bodyguard dead and lots of blood around. Next door, the brothel madame reveals that Triss had been there earlier, along with an elf named Cedric, and she summoned another sorceress named Phillipa from whom she took commands. Triss was also spending time with Roche’s men before this. What secrets has she learned? What secrets has she been keeping from Geralt? Geralt follows the blood trail out into the forest to find a dying Cedric, mortally wounded by Letho, who took Triss just as he said he would.
I realize now that I am on Iorveth’s path in the story. The game would be different if I’d opted to help Roche instead of giving Iorveth his sword. Many video games talk about how “choice matters,” but in some cases, the choices are very superficial. In The Witcher, the replay value goes up significantly, because the paths are so varied. The experience I have with choosing Iorveth would be completely different had I gone with Roche, and there are things I may never learn having made this decision.
But Roche is always yelling at me so fuck him. My friend Tiara is replaying the game along side me. She was supposed to select Roche’s path, since she chose Iorveth last time, but she feels much the same as I do about Roche’s yelling.
I head back to Iorveth to get his support. Or something. I was sleepy. Iorveth wants to attack Flotsam some more and rescue the people on the prison barge. Geralt convinces Iorveth to once again play the captor after a long talk where we learn that Iorveth’s anger isn’t quite as irrational as it seems. Nor does he hate humans. In fact, he envisions a state where humans and elves can live together in harmony, ruled by a woman named Saskia the Dragonslayer, the Virgin of Aedirn. Geralt and Iorveth have a very nice conversation as they march through the city to the barge. Once there, they get their badass on.
But before the barge can leave, Loredo appears, holding some elf women captive and threatening to burn them alive. Iorveth says his people are ready to die, but Geralt will have none of that. He opts to save the women, rather than go after Loredo, and the people of Flotsam truly recognize him as a hero and turn against their corrupt commander, though he manages to escape.
Iorveth is now assured of Geralt’s loyalty, though somewhere, Roche is probably yelling. Possibly because, prior to meeting up with Geralt earlier, Iorveth beat the crap out of him. They set sail for Aedirn, intent on finding Triss and now Saskia as well.