Witcher Diaries #3: Damsels in Distress
SPOILER WARNING: These diaries 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.
Witcher 3: Wild Hunt came out last week and I am very excited to play it, having heard wonderful things about Geralt’s beard and his ass kicking horse, Roach, but I made a promise that I would finish Witcher 2 before I get on with the sequel. Even though I pre-ordered said sequel last year. And pre-downloaded it the day before launch…
PREVIOUSLY ON THE WITCHER DIARIES: Roche kept yelling at Geralt so I ended up choosing #TeamIorveth. Together with Geralt’s friends Dandy and Zoltan and Iorveth’s Scoia’tael rebels, we sailed to Aedirn in pursuit of Letho, who has kidnapped Triss Merigold, and to find Saskia the dragonslayer whom Iorveth believes is the key to bringing about a new world order where humans and nonhumans can live together in peace.
Chapter Two begins with me in control of Prince Stennis, who, accompanied by Saskia, is on his way to meet with King Henselt, ruler of Kaedwen. Henselt is quick to pounce on the recent death of Aedirn’s king–another victim of the kingslaying witchers–but Stennis refuses to concede his lands. Before Geralt and his posse can join them, Henselt, with the help of a woman that looks very much like the sorceress Silé, declares war. Henselt and Stennis’ struggle unleashes an old blood curse on the land, enveloping the battlefield in a deadly mist. Wraiths and undead burst forth and Geralt valiantly dances into the fray, silver monster slaying sword in hand, while Iorveth screams for the protection of Saskia, who is doing a damn good job of protecting herself.
Just as our anti-heroes find themselves cornered, a magical owl—the sorceress Philipa—swoops in and enshrouds them in her shield, attacking enemies as she leads them out of the mist. Geralt offers to cover their escape, but, save for the few times Philipa is ensnared, the sorceress can take care of everything. Besides, Geralt’s fancy footwork often sends him flying outside of her shield, which, while elegant, is not conducive to survival.
Safe in the town of Vergen, I try my best not to get too caught up in dice and arm wrestling again (by “best,” I mean I earned another few hundred orens… witcher’s gotta eat … plus some of the gambling yields helpful weapons and quest items.) Then, I head to the war council to discuss retaliation plans. There is no discussion about whether or not there will be civil war, but who will help fight is another story as the Scoia’tael are not loved. But Iorveth’s archers are the best there is and they are willing to fight for Aedirn. This is enough to silence any dissent and the council raise their mugs as one.
Only, Saskia’s drink is poisoned and she collapses. It is magepain, Philipa informs Geralt and Iorveth, and gives them a list of magical ingredients necessary to save her. They suggest that collecting several rings and dropping them into a volcano might be easier, or perhaps if one of them just kissed the princess better. Philipa is not amused by their antics.
Meanwhile, Geralt still has another damsel to rescue. Some drunk dwarf saw a redhead fall from the sky who was then taken by a troll. Unlike the internet trolls, these monsters are just misunderstood and this one explains that he took care of the pretty redhead, who arrived along with a big, bald man, both of whom have since departed. The troll doesn’t know where they have gone, but magic could trace Triss, if the troll would hand over the bandana she left behind. Unfortunately, his wife has it and she has gone off in a huff, angry at her husband for fawning all over the stinky human. I find the wife some distance away fighting off mercenaries, whom I learn have been hired by Silé on behalf of Henselt to kill the kingslaying witchers—including Geralt. Fearing Geralt’s blade, they stand down and agree to turn themselves over to Saskia instead. Meanwhile, the troll grudgingly agrees to return to her husband and, after a heated argument between the two, she gives Geralt Triss’ bandana and I earn my “Friend of Trolls” achievement.
Saskia is still clinging to life, while I’m busy trying to rescue Geralt’s beloved. Fortunately, time isn’t *actually* of the essence, and the game allows me to undertake all of these quests at my leisure. First, there’s the venture into the rotfiend-infested mines to acquire a certain plant. I’m accompanied by a group of dwarves for this, which at first seems great because questing alone is dull, especially when they can fight the monstrous swarms. But they also get under foot and their witty banter about ploughing and farting doesn’t make up for getting in the way when Geralt is trying to walk through doors, collect items, or dodge attacks.
Philipa also needs a magical artifact, which can be found in places of powers. Asking around leads me to a place out in the forest where I find a dream crystal. But this crystal’s dreams aren’t strong enough, Philipa says. Go find a better one, Philipa says. Sigh. Harpy-infested caves, here we come.
Turns out, the harpies infest the entire walk to said caves, but this proves lucrative, as a gentleman hanging out in a nearby shack pays good coin for their feathers. What does he want said feathers for? Oh. Well. You know.
The best part of this entire fluff is that conversation options allow Geralt to act like this is totally normal. “Nice weather,” Geralt says. Because why wouldn’t it be normal for this man to cosplay as a giant yellow bird?
Inside the cave, there are lots of harpies, along with several colourful dream crystals, and at the end of the cave, a magical stone projector that allows me to view them so that I can find the most powerful one. There is one from Letho, where he delivers the head of a dead king to one of his Scoia’tael minions. Silé’s name comes up again. There are a few others, including a dragon’s dream, which is presumably the strongest dream, but I’m kind of partial to Iorveth’s dream, where the Scoia’tael leader sits alone in repose before a great feast, speaking elvish words that surely must be of great power and eloquence. Nope:
Oh, carrot, tasty carrot,
With even fat/lard on top,
And also chicken with parsley…
The final ingredient is royal blood, but that greedy bastard Prince Stennis refuses to give a pint, even to save the beloved Virgin of Aedirn. The game tells me to wait for events to unfold, so I return to drop off more stuff with Philipa, who, with almost every visit, seems to be in some state of undress and/or sex play with her apprentice, Cynthia. Geralt doesn’t seem to mind interrupting these sessions, and Philipa takes it all in stride. But soon, someone arrives to report that the nobles and commoners are up in arms over Saskia’s poisoning, with the commoners accusing the prince of treachery, and the nobles blaming a servant. Iorveth and his troop are there and he offers to keep them occupied while Geralt tries to root out the truth. Unlike Roche, who provides distraction by yelling a lot, Iorveth is more direct and prefers the threat of sharp weapons. I like Iorveth. He writes poems about food, has a great voice, and solves his problems with pointy things, though he is still quite a reasonable fellow. Geralt’s eloquence prevails and he convinces both sides to let Saskia be Stennis’ judge, assuming she survives. But Stennis still won’t give up that blood. Not sure why I couldn’t just poke him with a sword while he’s being marched off in cuffs.
The only other option for royal blood is Henselt, who is on the other side of the mist. This is, conveniently, also where Philipa has discerned Triss to be. In owl form, Philipa once again helps Geralt cross the cursed battlefield, and then awaits his return. He finds a body on the way to the and recovers a figurine from the body. He also crosses path with Roche, who accuses Geralt of abandoning his duty. Geralt politely notes that he doesn’t work for Roche and his Temerian Blue Stripe soldiers, and that his promise to find Letho, who killed Roche’s king, coincides with Geralt’s desire to rescue the missing Triss. Surprisingly, Roche does not yell much during this exchange. Instead, he directs Geralt on how best to get to Henselt, passed the Kaedweni camp. I decide to try out my ridiculously bad stealth skills, just to prove that I can too stealth when I put my mind to it, and successfully earn the “Black Ops” trophy. But I eventually get caught anyway and am taken to the tent of Shilard Fitz-Oesterlen, the Nilfgaardian ambassador that helped Geralt escape in the prologue. This does not mean the man is to be trusted, especially when Geralt learns that he is involved in Triss’ further kidnapping. That figurine Geralt found earlier? That was Triss in compressed form. Can this girl not get a break?
Shilard Fitz-Oesterlen orders the death of Geralt, but Roche and Ves arrive just in time. They fight off the ambassador’s soldiers and his mage. Then Roche escorts him to the inner camp, distracting guards with demands and orders, while Geralt sneaks around and into King Henselt’s tent. As usual, I opt to keep Geralt honest. He demands Henselt’s blood to save the poisoned Saskia. Henselt wants to know how Geralt crossed the mist. Geralt does not give him the specifics, but more importantly, he does tell the king that he can break the curse. Henselt willingly gives up his blood. Geralt returns to Philipa with the ingredients for Saskia’s cure, but Philipa reports that her apprentice/lover–a Nilfgaardian spy–has run off, possibly taking some of the ingredients with her. Sigh. Is this another quest? Fortunately, no. Cythia left some things behind, including the rose of remembrance she must have stolen from Triss. THe sorceress and the witcher go to Saskia, who is fiercely guarded by the Scoia’tael, and cure her of the magepain.
With Saskia’s health restored, plans must return to war, but first, Geralt must break the curse blocking the battlefield. Doing so will allow Henselt’s army in, but the curse needs to be stopped. Moreover, such a disbursement of magic could help Geralt recover more of his memories if he is in the middle of it. The process involves re-enacting the eternal battle that wages there, and seeking out the corrupted spirit at its centre. It also needs four magical items. Fortunately, this is not another quest opportunity. Philipa already has two of the items herself, Saskia’s sword is a third, which she willingly hands over, and the fourth is an item that I got from a quest I stumbled on earlier thanks to my gambling habit. See? Gambling does too pay off.
Wearing the many bodies of various members of the Kaedweni army, Geralt makes his way through the camp and has many visions. One is of Sabrina, the sorceress who counselled King Henselt at the time of this battle. She summons her compatriots and warns them that she intends to call upon great magic to turn the tides of battle and grant Henselt the victory. This is no idle decision she makes, and the more we see the of the sorceresses in discussion with each other, the clearer it is that, despite serving as the counselors of kings, their intentions go beyond the wills of those kings, though they do not seem to be up to dastardly deeds. For example, Philipa is well aware of Silé’s current position with King Henselt, and her machinations are meant to ensure that the balance of power remains in tact.
Sabrina’s spell works, though Henselt condemns her for it and orders her burned at the stake. The king wants power and land, but he does seem to have a sense of honour, at least on the battlefield. Geralt defeats the mighty draug that is empowering the mists and the wraiths, ending the eternal battle that the dead had been condemned to through Sabrina’s spell.
As he had hoped, another memory returns to Geralt. He sees Letho and two other witchers, whom Geralt saved from a beast. Letho knows the path to the Wild Hunt. What does this all mean? Days later, Geralt wakes in Philipa’s bedroom to learn that, with the curse broken, King Henselt has brought the war to Vergen’s doorstep.