Immersed in Witcher fantasy: Sword of Destiny
As Sapkowski’s Witcher Series was being translated to English, his second collection of short stories about Geralt was released between Baptism of Fire and The Tower of Swallows. In all honesty, the best time to read Sword of Destiny is after readers have completed The Last Wish.
Synopsis of Sword of Destiny: Geralt, the witcher, has been on many adventures, facing extreme challenges, slaying countless monsters, meeting fantastical creatures all while trying to protect the Child Surprise: the young Princess Ciri. While the first collection of stories focused more on stories resembling well-known fairy tales, this new collection focuses on stories about commonly known mythical creatures that readers familiar and unfamiliar with fantasy will know.
I highly recommend reading Sword of Destiny after The Last Wish because, chronologically, it makes so much sense. This collection of six short stories contains events that happen between The Last Wish and Blood of Elves. While there weren’t as many references pulled from this collection of stories, Witcher III: Wild Hunt did contain references to some major characters such as a golden dragon, a dwarf named Yarpin Zigrin, and a Doppler named Dudu Beiberveldt. Perhaps the most important references within this collection are of the destiny that Geralt and Ciri share, found within the last two stories of this collection. As I did with The Last Wish, references shall be separated by the order the stories are laid out. So, without further ado, let us press onwards.
**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.**
Ch. 1 — “THE BOUNDS OF REASON”
We are going to look back at the last article when I talked about the quest Skellige’s Most Wanted for the story “A Grain of Truth”. When speaking of the many run ins Geralt has had with monsters, the Godling makes a statement in the Witcher’s defense that says he spared a Golden Dragon. This may make players wonder: in a fantasy series full of monsters, why don’t dragons make more of an appearance? Well, to be honest, there is one dragon — a golden dragon who proves to be quite the amazing specimen as well as a close companion to Geralt. Players who have not yet read the series can actually find his character on a Gwent card. Remember the card that reads “Villentretenmerth”? The card that states that the man also goes by the name of Borkh Three Jackdaws? Ladies and gentleman, I introduce you to Sapkowski’s golden dragon.
Geralt met Three Jackdaws while completing a contract. The very villagers who hired him were ready to rob him when Three Jackdaws and his Zerrikanian bodyguards stopped them, instantly earning the Witcher’s respect. Geralt unknowingly earns Three Jackdaws’ respect, as well, shortly after and this is referenced to when you take on the Contract: Dragon. During this contract in the game, when you speak to the village elder of Fyresdal about the dragon, Geralt says that “Witchers don’t usually kill dragons.” In “The Bounds of Reason,” when Three Jackdaws talks about monsters witchers hunt and shows a high level of interest towards dragons, Geralt tells him that he will hunt forktails, dracolizards, and flying drakes, but he will not hunt or kill true dragons.[i] Even during the game’s contract, the “dragon” turns out to not be a dragon at all, but rather a large forktail and Geralt tells Dandelion in the story that some types of dracolizards are so large that they have been mistaken for dragons.[ii]
As I mentioned earlier, Three Jackdaws travels with two Zerrikanian bodyguards. If we refer back to the Gwent card, players will actually see a woman on either side of Jackdaws: these are the two aforementioned bodyguards. Readers learn in the story that Zerrikanians are warriors who are trained to fight from childhood.[iii] There is one reference to these two in Witcher III: Wild Hunt that can easily be missed unless players take on the quest High Stakes. When Sasha tells Geralt about the other contestants, she mentions one man named Patrick Hazelnutt who doesn’t go anywhere without three women by his side. This brings back a memory for Geralt as he tells her he once “knew a man with two Zerrikanian warrior women as bodyguards.”
I will briefly mention one character that actually makes a larger appearance in Blood of Elves, but I wanted to reference him real quick for this story is the first time Geralt meets him: Yarpin Zigrin. Yarpin is a dwarf who was leading six dwarves to go after the golden dragon.[iv] His character does not make an appearance in the game, but his name is said one time during the quest Of Swords and Dumplings (I will go into more detail about this dwarf in my next article). Truthfully, Geralt may have not even met Yarpin at this time because Geralt was originally not going to go after the dragon, but went once he found out a certain sorceress was going after the dragon, as well.
Yennefer wished to go after the dragon to use it as payment for a procedure. Sorceresses are barren and Yennefer actually hated the fact that she would never be able to have kids;[v] however, she knew someone who could have possibly given her the chance to reverse what magic had done. The procedure was expensive, but if she paid with a golden dragon, she believed it would be payment enough.[vi] The fact that both sorceresses and witchers are sterile leads to another fact mentioned towards the beginning of the story referring to the golden dragon. When Geralt tells Three Jackdaws about the different dragons he doesn’t hunt, Three Jackdaws asks if he would go after a golden dragon. Geralt says that golden dragons are myths because both they and other mutants couldn’t survive because, “Mutants are sterile. Only in fables survives what cannot survive in nature”.[vii] This is actually really sad to read because Geralt is just as upset about being sterile as Yennefer is and both are ones who would really like to have a family. On a side note, I honestly can’t remember exactly if or where it is mentioned in the game that sorceresses and witchers are sterile, but it is definitely referred to a few times in the books. If any player knows of a scene or scenes that mentions this, please remind me where it is in the game.
There is one more reference in the game to something that happened to Yennefer and Geralt in “The Bounds of Reason”: the time when both of them had a near-death experience. During the quest The Last Wish, Geralt reminds Yennefer about the time they went after a golden dragon and an avalanche swept them off the trail. An avalanche did occur because the dragon wished to cut off its pursuers and while Geralt and Yennefer were crossing a bridge, the bridge collapsed. Geralt was able to plunge his knife into the timbers and hold onto the knife, but Yennefer couldn’t get a good enough grip and fell. The only other thing to grab onto to stop her fall was Geralt. Both were not in a position to make their way out of the scrape and had to wait for Dandelion to throw a rope down to save them.[viii]
CH. 2 — “A SHARD OF ICE”
“A Shard of Ice” is a story the game did not reference to much, but one that is still one to read if one wants to learn more about the relationship between Geralt and Yennefer. I should rather say that this is a good story to express just how complex of a relationship these two have. I won’t go into all of those details or else this article will be just as long as the last, but I do encourage those who have not read the books to read this story if they are fans of Geralt and Yennefer being together (which *cough* they do…).
All righty, this first reference is one those who have only played the game will definitely recognize. This story starts out with Geralt finishing a contract in the sewers as he battles a zeugl.[ix] Players, how many times did Geralt mention that he fought a zeugel neck deep in sludge throughout Witcher III: Wild Hunt? A good handful of times, that’s for sure; however, when you read this story, his fight with this zeugl was not really that big of a deal. The fight lasted a few pages, but it wasn’t a life changing event or a drawn out fight as he seems to make it out to be whenever he mentions it to someone.
Now, let us focus on two references that are completely unrelated, yet Sapkowski manages to interconnect: the fairy tale “The Snow Queen” and the Wild Hunt. As we covered in my last article, Sapkowski likes to refer to fairy tales in his books and the game followed suit with the fairy tales found in the expansion pack quests. “A Shard of Ice” is one of two stories within Sword of Destiny that not only focuses on a fairy tale, but one written by Hans Christian Andersen. For those who have not read Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” you can find a very rough rendition in Disney’s Frozen. While the movie told a beautiful story, really the only element they took from the actual story was “love thawing a frozen heart.” Sapkowski takes this concept and portrays it to Geralt and Yennefer’s relationship by expressing the witcher trying to break his way through the ice enshrouding the sorceress’ heart.
Now you’re probably wondering, how does a fairy tale connect with a force such as the Wild Hunt? After Yennefer relays the elves version of “The Snow Queen” to Geralt, Geralt says that this tale is a “pretty description of the hideous phenomenon that is the Wild Hunt… An inexplicable, collective madness, compelling people to join a spectral cavalcade rushing across the sky.”[x] I’m sorry, quick side tangent here, but wow. Readers, just read this line aloud, please. Thank you, Sapkowski, for this beautiful sentence that portrays just how terrible the Wild Hunt is using just a few words. Bravo. Okay, pressing onwards. What is even more fascinating after Geralt says this line is that he was actually offered really good money to go after them, but he refused to take the job, and I don’t blame him. It is crazy to think that Geralt was offered a contract on the Wild Hunt itself and a fact players would never know just by playing the game.
Let us finish this story off with another reference players will be all too familiar with and one that I find really serves no purpose within the game, but is funny when it is mentioned in this story: the stuffed unicorn. Like the zeugl, this is only referred to in the books one time and it is, thankfully, referred to as a memory. Geralt remembers Yennefer having a stuffed unicorn that she liked to make love on. Geralt admitted that of all of the places where they had made love, the unicorn was the worst. During the quest The King is Dead — Long Life the King, Geralt finds said unicorn in Yennefer’s room in Skellige and says that she fixed it. This refers to the only time it is mentioned in the books for, and I quote, “One happy day, however, the dummy broke beneath him, split and fell apart, supplying much amusement”.[xi] Hm… it is a shame that she did fix it. I’m sorry, but this game really didn’t need this creepy looking dummy or the incredibly awkward scene that accompanied it… Very well, let’s move on to much better references, shall we?
CH 3 — “ETERNAL FLAME”
The third story in this collection is important due to the characters it introduces. There are actually three major characters in this story that can be found within Witcher III: Wild Hunt as well as a reference to one more that is not seen within the game, but can easily be overlooked if one has not read the books. It is the first story to introduce a Doppler, Sapkowski’s take on a shapeshifter, and one of the very few times they are mentioned throughout the books. Novigrad also makes it first appearance as well as the Temple of the Eternal Fire. For those of you who have only played the game, pretty much all of the elements within this short story will be first introduced to you when you first arrive in Novigrad and within all of the interconnected quests to save Dandelion.
We shall begin with the character that is introduced at the very beginning of this story. “Eternal Flame” starts out with Dandelion being… well, Dandelion and being both verbally and physically abused by a woman named Vespula who believed him to be unfaithful to her. This is a character whose name could easily be overlooked by players, but for those who have read the story, they will find it quite the treat and surprise when they run into her. As Vespula plays a minor role in the Witcher series as a whole, so too does she play a minor role in the game. During the quest Broken Flowers, Geralt is tasked with finding five women Dandelion mentions in his planner to help find the missing troubadour. When he asks Zoltan about the women, Vespula’s name is the third on the list. I must point out, though, that there are a couple of inconsistencies with how she is described. Geralt says that Vespula “threw Dandelion’s knickers out the window,” which did not happen. She did throw a pair of trousers at him claiming they were his, but what made it funny is that when Dandelion looked at them, he shouted that they weren’t even his.[xii] Geralt also mentioned that she said that he was “a scoundrel with a voice like a consumptive pheasant”. This is along the lines of what she actually calls Dandelion, for of the many creative names she shouts at him in her anger, she calls him a “croaking pheasant,”[xiii] which, I guess, is close enough. When you do end up finding Vespula and after you help her, she does still bear a grudge against Dandelion looking at other women.
Now we move onto a character players will definitely be more familiar with: Dudu Biberveldt. “Eternal Flame” was the first time Geralt and Dandelion were introduced to Dudu and the first time readers were introduced to a Doppler.[xiv] Dudu was first seen in Novigrad impersonating a Halfling merchant named Dainty Biberveldt. When he is found out what he is, he introduces himself as “I’m a doppler, and my name is Tellico Lunngrevink Letorte. Penstock for short. My close friends call me Dudu”.[xv] He did not start out as friendly as players know him to be in the game and caused a lot of problems for a lot of people. One such problem that he caused for Geralt can actually be witnessed during the quest An Elusive Thief. Players, remember when the Doppler turns into Geralt and you have to fight him? Dudu did the exact same thing to Geralt, but they did not fight.[xvi] What is fun is that the quest also stayed true to Geralt’s reaction to seeing himself. In the game, Geralt says, “Damn, I look old.” In the book, his reaction is way funnier:
“What a hideous smile I have, Geralt thought, reaching for his sword. What a hideous face I have. And how hideously I squint. So is that what I look like? Damn.”[xvii]
For the game’s version of Dudu, they kept him relatively close to what he looks like in the book, though in the book he had curly read hair,[xviii] and while he does change into a couple of different characters throughout the game, he mainly favors his Halfling form. This definitely stays true to the story for once the mess Dudu created is cleared, he makes an agreement with the real Dainty Bieberveldt to become partners in trade because Dudu is an excellent businessman. Thus, he is dubbed Dainty’s “cousin,” Dudu Bieberveldt.
Let us finish off the character references with two more minor ones: one known by players and the other referenced in the game, but only known to readers. The first known character is Vimme Vivaldi. Vimme makes, I believe, two or three very minor appearances throughout the books, but he is your main source of converting money into crowns in the game. Not to mention the dwarf plays a large role in the Hearts of Stone quest Open Sesame!.
The second minor character referenced I actually missed the first few times while playing until I just happened to reach this scene in the game while reading “Eternal Flame.” During the quest The Play’s The Thing, after the play is over and Geralt and Zoltan relay the plan to Dudu on how to get Dandelion away from Temple Isle, Dudu says, “You don’t expect me to keep living like Menge, live like Chappelle.” Chappelle is said minor character. He is the minister for security affairs and a very dangerous man in Novigrad that Geralt runs into in this story.[xix] He plays a big role in the Temple of the Eternal Fire[xx] and this story is also where this “religion,” if you want to call it that, is introduced. The people who follow the Eternal Fire and Chappelle are just as twisted as they are in the game as players find out during the quest Carnal Sins. What the priests of the Eternal Fire do to people isn’t nearly as graphic in the books as it is in the game, but when Geralt first learns of Chappelle, it is most certainly hinted at.
CH. 4 — “A LITTLE SACRIFICE”
This is perhaps the one short story of Sapkowski’s that I was unable to find a reference to it in the game. The only thing that comes to mind is that it resembles another fairy tale like the ones mentioned in my previous article and “A Shard of Ice” aforementioned. “A Little Sacrifice” includes a story that follows along the lines of Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”[xxi] and poor Geralt is hired to be the mediator between a mermaid and a human. This is a very entertaining story that has more of Dandelion, a trobairitz similar to Priscilla, and a contract Geralt takes up that focuses more on him trying to help a mythological creature rather than killing it. It is also the only time Sapkowski ever has mermaids appear in his stories, much like his golden dragon.
CH. 5 — “THE SWORD OF DESTINY”
The last two stories within this book are EXTREMELY important when it comes to Geralt and Ciri’s destiny of being together. It is mentioned that the game takes place in the year 1272: this is actually five or six years AFTER the events of the books series which explains why the characters in the game keep saying that Ciri is back/ has returned/ is now a grown woman (Ciri should be about 20 or 21 years old in the game, for come the end of the last book, she is 15 or 16).
There are only a few references from the game in both, which is actually a good thing because when it comes to these stories, I HIGHLY recommend players to read these stories themselves. Only by reading them will you truly be able to experience the amazing relationship between the Witcher and the Princess and how close they truly are. I thank CD Projekt Red wholeheartedly for getting the bond between these two down so perfectly and I cannot express enough how strongly I encourage those who have only played the game to read these stories.
As mentioned in my last article, Geralt invoked the Law of Surprise in “A Question of Price” to obtain Princess Pavetta and Duny’s unborn child, but he never actually went to retrieve their child when she was born and did not officially meet her until years later when he found her in the Brokilon Forest. Brokilon is an elven forest referred to a couple of times in the game and it is well-known for young human girls to go in and never leave, becoming part elf themselves, also known as dryads, after drinking the magical Water of Brokilon.
When Geralt finds Ciri, she is just a child and he actually saves her from a scolopendromorph that is ready to kill her.[xxii] From its description, I knew it was some sort of large bug, but after Googling it just now, I now know that it was a giant centipede. (On another random short tangent, I absolutely HATE centipedes and am now officially grossed out after seeing the images that popped up. Thank you, Google… for giving me nightmares tonight!)
What makes this story vital, other than the fact that these two finally meet, is that when Geralt first officially meets his destiny… he almost loses her. This is actually referenced to in the game during the quest Novigrad Dreaming. When Corrine first asks Geralt to describe Ciri to her, the first option says, “I remember when we first met.” He goes on to say that he found a girl in the Brokilon Forest and didn’t know who she was at first. The dryads of the forest wanted to keep her and turn her into a dryad, but thanks to her Elder Blood, the Water of Brokilon (the game called it the Waters of Oblivion… not sure why) didn’t change her.[xxiii] He then says that Ciri left the forest with him and he took her back to her grandmother, but he already felt bound to her. When Corrine asks if they were bound by destiny, Geralt says they were bound by “something more,” which leads this collection’s final story of the same name.
CH. 6 — “SOMETHING MORE”
Towards the end of “The Sword of Destiny,” Ciri asks Geralt if she is a Child of Surprise and Geralt’s response is amazing because he says this after knowing her for only, I think, a day:
“’Ciri,’ he looked at her, shaking his head and smiling. ‘Believe me, you’re the greatest surprise I could have come across’”[xxiv]
I admit… I am a giant sap when it comes to Geralt and Ciri. I will most likely be mentioning how much I love these two just as much as I will with Geralt and Yennefer throughout my articles (just a heads up, everyone, so please, bear with me and skip over my tangents if you get annoyed with my rambling). Their relationship is just so beautiful! Here you have a powerful monster slayer who, thanks to his mutations, cannot have children and never expected to have any and then you have a young princess who loses everything she has ever known and loved and finds safety and shelter in the most unexpected of places with the most unexpected person.
A man who never believed he would be a father obtains a daughter in a little girl who believes she lost all of her family when her kingdom was destroyed and believed she was alone in the world… Absolutely touching.
Unlike “The Sword of Destiny,” I will give a very brief synopsis for “Something More.” Geralt invokes the Law of Surprise to a man who is about to be killed by monsters as payment for saving his life. The man agrees and Geralt dispatches of the monsters, but is badly injured. The man takes care of Geralt as he travels home and, along the way, Geralt has dreams that seem to be leading him to something… or someone.
The only other reference that I could find in “Something More” and that I will mention here is something that I believe can be found during the quest Isle of Mists. Yes, this quest is what players strive to reach because you spend so long trying to find your baby girl and then she is FINALLY RIGHT THERE! (Oh, right… if I refer to Ciri as “baby girl” on occasion, that’s just what I have called her since the first time I played through the game. As soon as I found her on the Isle of Mists, I had already read the books and I was already in love with her character and how protective Geralt was of her throughout the series that I became just as protective of her in the game).
MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD! Stop reading now if you don’t want the ending of this story ruined, but I feel as if I must share it to officially bring this article to a close. Okay, you’ve been warned…
During the quest Isle of Mists, when Ciri wakes up, Geralt has a flashback to when Ciri was just a child. I strongly believe this flashback is what takes place in “Something More” when he finds her again after he believes he lost her. Dandelion had told Geralt Cintra had fallen: Queen Calanthe was dead and Ciri was missing.[xxv] When Geralt invoked the Law of Surprise to the man he saved at the beginning of the story,[xxvi] he did so with the hope that Ciri may be at his home. It turns out… she was. As the man watches Geralt run to Ciri, it says that “He had never thought a man could move so quickly.” Ciri then asks Geralt another question, but rather than asking if she is a surprise, she asks if she’s his destiny. Geralt replies with another perfect answer: “You’re more than that, Ciri. Much more.”[xxvii]
I know, I know… I shouldn’t have spoiled the ending of that last story, but I couldn’t help myself. This story and their father/ daughter relationship is just so beautiful and it is one of the main reasons I fell in love with this book series. While I am a sap when it comes to a good movie, it takes a lot for a book to make me cry. Throughout all of Sapkowski’s books and playing through CD Projekt Red’s game, I have cried four times and three of those four times were scenes between Geralt and Ciri. The first was at the end of the story “Something More,” the second was during the quest Isle of Mists (honestly, who doesn’t at least get teary eyed on that one?), and the last won’t be mentioned until the end of my series for it is found in The Lady of the Lake. (I will mention the fourth one when I get to it, as well, but that won’t be until the very end when I reach Season of Storms).
Once again, I have talked your ears off, but to all of you who are still with me, THANK YOU! We have made it past the preliminaries and are now ready to begin the main event! I did fall a bit behind in finishing up the next few articles, so my article on Blood of Elves may not be up until Friday, September 21, but I will finish it and post it as soon as I can. Until then, thank you all so much again for all of your support and I will talk with you soon!
*Disclaimer: Everything Witcher related belongs to the amazingly talented Andrzej Sapkowski who created this equally amazing fantasy world. Credit also 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 Sword of Destiny here — originally published on May 22, 2016 on Examiner.com before it was moved to Roll Out Reviews*
Sapkowski, A. (2015) Sword of Destiny. New York, NY: Orbit Books.
[i] Sapkowski 9
[ii] Sapkowski 16
[iii] Sapkowski 9
[iv] Sapkowski 19
[v] Sapkowski 43
[vi] Sapkowski 65
[vii] Sapkowski 11
[viii] Sapkowski 50–51
[ix] Sapkowski 83–86
[x] Sapkowski 91
[xi] Sapkowski 102–103
[xii] Sapkowski 132
[xiii] Sapkowski 133
[xiv] Sapkowski 141
[xv] Sapkowski 140
[xvi] Sapkowski 174–175
[xvii] Sapkowski 174
[xviii] Sapkowski 136
[xix] Sapkowski 159
[xx] Sapkowski 158
[xxi] Sapkowski 187
[xxii] Sapkowski 256–257
[xxiii] Sapkowski 296
[xxiv] Sapkowski 300
[xxv] Sapkowski 369–370
[xxvi] Sapkowski 318
[xxvii] Sapkowski 374
Originally published at rolloutreviews.com on September 20, 2018.