Immersed in Witcher fantasy: Blood of Elves
We have passed the preliminaries and now get to focus on the main storyline of Sapkowski’s Witcher Series! Blood of Elves is the first of five books in the main series and while it may not have as many references found within the game as the previous books have, it does still house references of importance, especially involving Geralt and Ciri, and it proves to be an excellent introduction to characters found or mentioned within the game.
Synopsis of Blood of Elves: Humans, elves, dwarves, and gnomes have lived and worked together for centuries; however, those centuries of peace are nearing an end as these races begin to fight amongst themselves. War is rapidly approaching and the Child Surprise is wanted by many for the power she houses within her to turn the tide of the impending battle. The Child Surprise, a young princess name Cirilla, has the power to change the world or destroy it. But she is not alone, for she was destined to meet the famous witcher Geralt of Rivia and Geralt was destined to protect her from the many who so desperately want her power.
Once again, feel free to pick and choose whatever you would like to read within the article. From here on out, references shall be separated into specific categories so it will be easier for you, my dear readers, to find very specific references you may be curious about. And, as always, if you read the whole article, you are fantastic and I can’t thank you enough for staying with me! Now then, shall we?
**SPOILER WARNING: I will give the constant reminder that spoilers will be present in all of these articles. I will also try to refer to spoilers and give warnings as they appear throughout my articles. If anyone has not read or played the games and does not wish for anything to be spoiled, please stop reading now.**
Blood of Elves is perhaps the only book that actually has a couple of chapters that takes place in Kaer Morhen and has other witchers from the School of the Wolf make an appearance. Here is where the witchers are truly introduced to the readers for the first time, even though there are not that many for the readers to be introduced to, just like in Witcher III: Wild Hunt.
Readers are first introduced to Eskel and Lambert. Eskel is described as looking a lot like Geralt apart from the color of his hair and a long scar that disfigured his cheek and Lambert is described as being the youngest of the witchers at Kaer Morhen and normally wore an “ugly, mocking expression”.[i] Then Vesemir is introduced who is described as being probably older than Kaer Morhen itself, but he had the energy of someone much younger.[ii] Players will most certainly know these three witchers, but there is one more that makes an appearance in the books that players will not know: Coën. He is also a younger witcher like Lambert and is much quieter than the others. He had difficulties during his mutations that can be seen in his eyes, for his irises were paler and the whites of his eyes were “riddled with red threads”.[iii]
The game did a very good job portraying the characteristics of each of the witchers’ for while readers do not get to read much about them throughout the series, they get to learn the personality of each one as each has a one-on-one training session with Ciri.
As a side note, readers also discover the reason why there are so few witchers left from the School of the Wolf. Apparently, there was a terrible battle that occurred at Kaer Morhen that killed off all of the witchers within the keep. The only ones to survive were the witchers who hadn’t even been there. The surviving witchers keep the bones of their fallen brothers visible around the walls of the keep to remind them of what happened.[iv] Poor Kaer Morhen just can’t catch a break, especially since it was attacked again at the beginning of the first Witcher game and then again by the Wild Hunt in the third game during the quest The Battle of Kaer Morhen.
To all fans of Triss, Blood of Elves is where she makes her first appearance and where she has her largest role in the whole series. Yes, she appears at random intervals throughout the series and she most certainly plays a large role when the Lodge of Sorceresses comes about. But her role in this first book is, I believe, her most important for she really helps Ciri, Geralt, and the other witchers at Kaer Morhen.
Geralt asked Triss to come to Kaer Morhen to help them with Ciri. At first, she believed they wanted to turn Ciri into a witcher. She believed since the practice of the Trial of the Grasses hadn’t been used in ages, none of the surviving witchers knew how to subject Ciri to them and they needed a sorceress’ help.[v] But in all actuality, the witchers needed magical and feminine help with the young princess.
Remember at the very end of the quest Isle of Mists when Geralt and Ciri arrive at Kaer Morhen and Triss calls Ciri “Little Sis”? The two form a sisterly bond while they are together and once Triss sees how the witchers have been raising her, she takes on the role as protective older sister. I have mentioned before that I am not a big fan of Triss, but there is one scene where I absolutely love her and it is even referenced to in the game.
In Blood of Elves, when Ciri is telling Triss how she trains and how she recovers from the injuries she sustains, Ciri asks Triss if she could turn her into a boy. When Triss tells her no, Ciri then asks her if there was a way to make her stop menstruating. Let’s just say: Triss flips out. She chastises all of the witchers and reminds them that Ciri is a girl and she is maturing. Once she has made the men feel incredibly uncomfortable and ashamed, she then has Ciri come to them wearing a dress to tell them that she cannot train that day because she was “indisposed”.[vi] This is referenced to in the game when you pick the option “I trained her at Kaer Morhen…” in the quest Novigrad Dreaming.
There is one more reference to Triss that could easily be missed in the game and it is found towards the beginning of the quest Pyres of Novigrad. When Geralt searches through Triss’ house, there are some small amulets that can be examined on a counter on the second floor. Geralt mentions the amulets are emanating magic and that they had to be Triss’ because she was allergic to potions. This is first revealed in Blood of Elves when Geralt, Triss, and Ciri set off from Kaer Morhen. Triss gets really sick and Geralt asks her which of her elixirs she should take. She admits she can’t take any because she has always been allergic to elixirs and while she can treat others with them, she can only treat herself with amulets.[vii]
Here is a character that I mentioned in brief in my last article about Sword of Destiny during the story “The Bounds of Reason.” That story is a brief first introduction to the dwarf Yarpin Zigrin, but his true introduction comes in Blood of Elves. First, let me refer to the one time his name is mentioned in the game. In the quest Of Swords and Dumplings, the dwarf guarding the warehouse towards the end of the quest states, “Any friend of Yarpin Zigrin is a friend of mine.”
While players truly know Zoltan to be the only dwarf to aid Geralt (which he is most certainly important and we will get to him come Baptism of Fire), Yarpin aided Geralt, Triss, and Ciri during a very rough time on their travels before Geralt ever met Zoltan. After Triss became sick, she was so weak that she couldn’t sit up on a horse, not by herself or with Geralt’s help. Since she couldn’t take an elixir and she had misplaced the amulet that could have cured her, they didn’t know how they would keep traveling.
Geralt was told to find a caravan that was heading in the direction they were heading and to ask for passage with them. Luckily, Yarpin Zigrin and his group of dwarves were guarding the caravan and they remembered Geralt from their time going after the golden dragon. Yarpin was able to talk the one in command of the caravan into letting them travel along as long as Geralt also acted as a guard.[viii]
Yarpin proves to be a rather humorous dwarf as well as a trusted friend and ally. Whenever Geralt had to tend to Triss, Ciri would harper Yarpin with questions about the war, the conflict between nonhumans and humans, and anything else that came to mind. They annoyed one another, but also grew to like one another. And when their caravan is attacked by elves, Yarpin does everything he can to protect Triss and Ciri. His role in Blood of Elves is semi-short, but memorable and he does make a reappearance in The Lady of the Lake[ix] (as every character seems to as the series goes on).
It seems Shani played a larger role in the earlier games of the series, but as I mentioned, we are not going to look at those games. Rather we shall look at the only time players see her in Witcher III: Wild Hunt and that is in the Hearts of Stone expansion.
The red-headed medic is first introduced in Blood of Elves while she is still a student studying at the University of Oxenfurt. Dandelion seeks her out while being followed by two of Dijkstra’s men in search of some assistance.[x] Even given Dandelion’s track record, I do not believe he and Shani were ever together, rather just very good friends. He asks her for help in relaying a message to Geralt… which ultimately leads to Geralt and Shani sharing a night together. This is probably why the games hinted at those two having a thing at some point, but in the books, it was just one night.
Shani only makes one more large appearance in the book series and that is during the final book The Lady of the Lake. She is recruited to be a medic during the Battle of Brenna where she is truly introduced to her field of practice.[xi] If anything, this battle is the true reason why she becomes such a great medic and cool under pressure as players see in the quests of Hearts of Stone. Just from her roles in Blood of Elves and The Lady of the Lake, CD Projekt Red portrayed her character very nicely. She has a fiery temper that matches her hair, she deeply cares about people and wants to help anyone who is sick or hurt, and is an all-around good person.
*DIJKSTRA & PHILLIPA
All players know Dijkstra and Phillipa from Witcher III: Wild Hunt. Blood of Elves is where they are both introduced and they actually work side by side snooping out information for the benefit of the kingdom. Towards the end of the quest Blindingly Obvious, when Dijkstra is harboring bad memories towards “Phil” (Dijkstra is the only one to call her by that nickname), you have the option to say, “This is no time for a lover’s quarrel.” Yes, Dijkstra and Phillipa were a pair during the books… a very strange pairing, I know, but they are both excellent spies and work very well as a team.
Ah, the prophecy that is referred to many times throughout the book series and a handful of times throughout Witcher III: Wild Hunt. While players can find it in a book in the game, here is the actual prophecy from Sapkowski himself found on the first page of his first book:
“Verily I say unto you, the era of the sword and axe is nigh, the era of the wolf’s blizzard. The Time of the White Chill and the White Light is nigh, the Time of Madness and the Time of Contempt: Tedd Deireadh, the Time of the End. The world will die amidst frost and be reborn with the new sun. It will be reborn of the Elder Blood, of Hen Ichaer, of the seed that has been sown. A seed which will not sprout but will burst into flame.” (Sapkowski 1)
Ithlinne Aegli aep Aevenien’s prophecy
Ithlinne is an elven seeress who foretold this prophecy of, pretty much, the end times: civilization will end, people will turn on people, and the White Frost will wipe everyone out.[xii] While the White Frost itself did not make an appearance in the books, CD Projekt Red actually took it upon themselves to show players what they believed it to look like and their take on it which actually proved to be rather clever.
SLAUGHTER OF CINTRA
Cintra was the most powerful kingdom for whoever ruled Cintra also had control over many other places in the land as well as a very powerful alliance with the Skellige Islands. This is all I will really say for when it comes to all of the politics regarding royalty and the different kingdoms of Sapkowski’s series, I am slowly, but surely starting to understand them, but don’t know enough to write about them accurately in these articles. In all honesty, I give Sapkowski props for the world he created and the incredible depth he went into, but for readers who are like me, I don’t pick up very quickly on politics and have to read through it a few times to understand everything that is happening.
Queen Calanthe, the lioness of Cintra, ruled when the kingdom was attacked and it was a massacre. There were no survivors that day… except for one: the lioness’ granddaughter, Ciri. Poor Ciri was only ten or eleven years old when she witnessed this slaughter (her age is mentioned by Geralt in “Something More” in Sword of Destiny[xiii]). She was always haunted by a man in black wearing a helmet with the wings of a bird of prey[xiv] that tried to take her during the massacre. She was never meant to die, but to be taken somewhere and this black knight was to be her captor, but she managed to escape from him. Readers get to briefly witness all Ciri went through at the very beginning of Blood of Elves and then get to learn more from Geralt later on. He relays to Triss all that she went through to escape, traveling on her own just trying to stay alive for nearly half a year until she was taken in by a peasant family.[xv] She stayed and worked with the family until destiny found her… until Geralt found her during the Sword of Destiny story “Something More” and took her to Kaer Morhen, far away so that no one could hurt her again.
The slaughter is not mentioned very much in the game and players will find copies of a book titled The Slaughter of Cintra, but do not look to this for a detailed description for there are only a couple brief paragraphs talking more about the army arriving at Cintra and preparing for the slaughter then the actual slaughter itself. This very book can actually be found in Menge’s office during the quest Count Reuven’s Treasure. Menge also mentions the wine that he pours for Geralt is a 1261 vintage: the year of the massacre of Cintra.
GERALT AND CIRI
The bond between Geralt and Ciri is sometimes too beautiful for words and their bond is, perhaps, the main reason I fell so in love with this series. Sapkowski created a powerful and unfeeling mutant of a man who, due to his mutations, cannot have children and makes a living by endangering his life to kill monsters and protect unappreciative humans. Sapkowski also created a young girl who was born with powers she has no idea how to control, who has lost her family and all she has known within a single night, and who is more stubborn than she probably realizes. An unanticipated twist of fate brings these two characters together: a man who never believed he could be a father and a girl who believed she had lost all the family she had ever known.
I believe I pretty much said all of this in my last article… Oh, well. Blood of Elves really focuses more on the relationship between Geralt and his ward, Ciri, truly showing how close they are and why it is so important in the books and in the game. Take the very beginning of the book, when she has the nightmare about the slaughter of Cintra. Normally when she woke up screaming and people tried to calm her down, she never felt comforted by their words and never believed she was truly safe.
“Now she believed it. Because it was Geralt of Rivia, the White Wolf, the Witcher, who said it. The man who was her destiny. The one for whom she was destined. Geralt the Witcher, who had found her surrounded by war, death and despair, who had taken her with him and promised they would never part. She fell asleep holding tight to his hand.”[xvi]
One reference in the quest Novigrad Dreaming (yes, this one will be referred to a lot throughout these articles because everything Geralt says during the quest refers to something that happened in the books), tells of a very tender moment between Geralt and Ciri at Kaer Morhen, when he tells Corrine that he caught her after falling off of a wall.
Ciri has a moment where she swears to fight the Nilgaardians and make them pay for what they did to her grandmother and that this is the reason she is learning to fight with her sword. Geralt tells her she will stop learning because she does not understand what it truly means to fight with a sword. They argue and she runs out, even Vesemir tells Geralt that he was too rough on her. After calming down, Geralt goes after Ciri and finds her standing on one of the ruined walls of the keep. When he tells her to come down, she says that no one will take her sword away and tries to jump away from him. One of the stones she steps on comes loose and she loses her balance. Triss, who had gone out with Geralt, didn’t have time to cast a spell and knew Geralt wouldn’t make it to her in time. Lo and behold, Geralt did make it and caught her.[xvii]
“He was forced down to the ground, thrown on his knees and back. But he did not let go of Ciri. The magician approached them slowly. She heard the girl whisper and sniff. Geralt too was whispering. She could not make out the words. But she understood their meaning.”[xviii]
While Witcher III: Wild Hunt does an incredible job of showing the bond between these two characters (especially during the quest The Isle of Mists), no player will be able to truly grasp the bond between Geralt and Ciri unless they have read the book series.
YENNEFER AND CIRI
Yes, these two wonderful ladies get their own small section here because their mother/ daughter relationship truly begins here and there are two references in the game to times they are together.
The first reference is found in the quest Child of the Elder Blood. When you first arrive on the small island where Avallac’h’s lab is, you see Yennefer and Ciri talking in the main cloister. They are talking about how to lift the barrier on the door and Ciri mentions that she thought of Yennefer as an “overbearing cold shrew at the time.” In all honesty, when Yennefer and Ciri first met, they did not like each other.
After Geralt had left Ciri at the Temple of Melitele, he had swallowed his pride and written Yennefer a letter to ask for her help in training Ciri to control her magical abilities. After ripping him a new one in a letter of her own, Yennefer agrees and goes to the Temple.[xix]
The whole last chapter is about Yennefer training Ciri and how they go from strongly disliking one another to truly caring about each other. The other reference to them is during Novigrad Dreaming. Geralt says that he remembers Ciri had trouble controlling her abilities and when Yennefer tried to teach her to cast some spells, she destroyed a shed near a temple where they were training. I’m assuming Yennefer told Geralt this because he wasn’t even there, but Ciri did in fact destroy a shack outside of the Temple of Melitele. Yennefer was teaching Ciri psychokinesis and told her to throw a basket as hard as she could against the wall of a shack, but Ciri threw the basket a little too hard. Rather than scolding her, Yennefer said to view the test as a success and that the shack was ugly anyway and the planks could be used as firewood.[xx]
GERALT WITH YENNEFER AND TRISS
Oh, no… Here we go again… All right, let me just get this out of the way…
*cough* Geralt and Yennefer belong together *cough*
I know this subject has already come up in previous articles and it will most definitely be coming up in the articles to come. The books just go deeper into the love triangle between Geralt, Yennefer, and Triss. However, it is clear in the books Geralt wants to be with Yennefer and Triss just kind of follows him like a lost puppy. I do apologize to the fans of Geralt and Triss out there, I know there are quite a few of you, but Triss has always irked me. If one is more knowledgeable to the history behind these three, it does not make the decision on who to pair Geralt with in the game hard at all.
For this article, I will be brief with this section, I promise, especially since I mentioned a lot about Triss already. Blood of Elves is an excellent introduction to Triss playing the role of Ciri’s older sister while also hinting that yes, her and Geralt had a minor thing, but it did not go any further from there.
One thing I didn’t mention earlier was why Geralt asked Triss to come to Kaer Morhen and not Yennefer. In all honesty, Geralt and Yennefer were not together at this time after a really bad argument and Geralt did not have another sorceress to call. I’m not trying to say that Geralt doesn’t care about Triss for he really does, but not in the way Triss or the players want him to. If anything, Triss admits to the readers in Blood of Elves that she seduced him. She saw him with Yennefer and was jealous of them being together. When they separated, Triss went in to be the comfort Geralt needed. I’m sorry, but from my point of view, this is a terrible thing to do and makes me not like Triss even more.[xxi]
There are actually two scenes in Witcher III: Wild Hunt where two people talk to Geralt and pretty much tell him that he and Yennefer belong together. The first happens towards the end of the game, but I wanted to refer to it first since it is the shortest. During the quest The Sunstone, Phillipa mentions how Yennefer is more of a mother to Ciri while Triss is more like a big sister. Hm… I think Phillipa may be on to something here…
The next is Ciri herself. In Blood of Elves, there is a scene where Triss was feeling better from her illness, but was still too weak to do anything. She wanted to wash and Geralt held her while Ciri washed and dried her. Ciri noticed something that surprised and annoyed her: “Triss, in her opinion, snuggled up to Geralt too tightly. This time she was even trying to kiss him”.[xxii] Even Ciri, who loves Triss as a sister, does not like the idea of the two being together.
This scene is not specifically mentioned in Witcher III: Wild Hunt, but Ciri’s view of who she wishes Geralt to be with is expressed during the quest Payback. If you chose to go with Triss, Ciri is happy for Geralt, but seems to question why they ended up together. If you decide to go with Yennefer, Ciri says that she is glad they ended up together and Geralt says that after the wish was broken, he felt he was exactly where he was supposed to be.… because they are SUPPOSED to be together. Players, please, I know many of you most likely like Triss since you’ve been following her in the first few games, but please, for continuity purposes, CHOSE YENNEFER.
So… I’m a bit behind in my series for I should have been on article seven by now and am only on article four… oh, well. This series is just for fun and I may even double up on articles over the next week because I want to finish this and have all of it posted no later than Friday. Tricky to do, but definitely doable, I just wasn’t as prepared for this series as I thought.
All righty, after another small tangent, thank you all so much for reading and for your support. If you haven’t read the books or played the game, you’re probably reading through this going, what the heck is going on? I hope, at least, I have peeked your interest to at least start reading Sapkowski’s series for these books truly are amazing. I’ll explain my enthusiasm behind the series and why I love it so much in my concluding article at the end of the week.
And yes, I know I mentioned that the preliminaries are over and that I am focusing on the main storyline now, but I did not write an article for Season of Storms which also occurs before Blood of Elves. I did this intentionally for if you read Season of Storms last, you will actually get more from the series as a whole (at least I did). I will explain once we get there.
Thank you all so much again for reading and for hanging in there with me. See you guys soon as I delve into The Time of Contempt for article number five!
*Disclaimer: Everything Witcher related belongs to the amazingly talented Andrzej Sapkowski who created this equally amazing fantasy world. Credit goes to CD Projekt Red for bringing Sapkowski’s world to playable life in Witcher III: Wild Hunt. I take no credit for anything involving the world of the Witcher — I am only entitled to my own opinions.*
*Writer’s Note: While I take great pride in reading and learning about every aspect I can about The Witcher Series, if any reader finds any inconsistencies, any fact that is false, or any facts that are missing in my articles, please let me know either through a comment on the article or through my social media and I will gladly make any necessary changes to make them accurate and truthful. Thank you all so much for your help and support!*
*Book Review: You can find my book review of Blood of Elves here — originally published on December 23, 2015 on Examiner.com before it was moved to Roll Out Reviews*
Sapkowski, A. (2009) Blood of Elves. New York, NY: Orbit Books.
Sapkowski, A. (2017) The Lady of the Lake. New York, NY: Orbit Books.
[i] BOE — Sapkowski 67
[ii] BOE — Sapkowski 70
[iii] BOE — Sapkowski 70
[iv] BOE — Sapkowski 63–64
[v] BOE — Sapkowski 77
[vi] BOE — Sapkowski 86–91
[vii] BOE — Sapkowski 144
[viii] BOE — Sapkowski 156–158
[ix] LOTL — Sapkowski 500
[x] BOE — Sapkowski 247–248
[xi] LOTL — Sapkowski 294–297; 301–302; 306–308; 310–313; 314–319; 323–324; 335
[xii] BOE — Sapkowski 313
[xiii] BOE — Sapkowski 370
[xiv] BOE — Sapkowski 6
[xv] BOE — Sapkowski 87–88
[xvi] BOE — Sapkowski 8
[xvii] BOE — Sapkowski 136–139
[xviii] BOE — Sapkowski 139
[xix] BOE — Sapkowski 216–218
[xx] BOE — Sapkowski 393
[xxi] BOE — Sapkowski 76
[xxii] BOE — Sapkowski 179
Originally published at rolloutreviews.com on September 23, 2018.