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Blood Of The Elves Pdf

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They didn't break any bones, did they? I've a few questions for him. There might still be a little murmur in him but not for long. Let's look at the other one. Bloody hell. Such a sturdy fellow and he still couldn't take it. Pity, pity ' 'He's dead, too? I fried him a little too haul. See, even his teeth are charred— What's the matter with you, Dandilion? Are you going to be sick? Haven't forgotten anything? Apart from "thank you". Thank you, Yennefer.

She slipped the roast chicken onto a trencher and began dividing it skilfully, She used a knife and fork. Dandilion had only known one person, up until then, who could eat a chicken with a knife and fork as skilfully. Now he knew how, and from whom, Geralt had learnt the knack. Well, he thought, no wonder. After all, he did live with her for a year in Vengerberg and before he left her, she had instilled a number of strange things into him. He pulled the other chicken from the skewer and, without a second thought, ripped off a thigh and began eating it, pointedly holding it with both hands.

Then I followed you into town. I waited here, in the tavern - it wasn't fitting, after all, for me to follow you in to that haven of dubious delight and certain gonorrhoea.

But I eventually became impatient and was wandering around the yard when I thought I heard voices coming from the pigsty. I sharpened my hearing and it turned out it wasn't, as I'd first thought, some sodomite but you. Hey, innkeeper! More wine, if you please! Quick as a flash! I can only tolerate water in a bath, in wine I find it quite loathsome. There was still enough meat on the chicken, Dandilion noticed, to feed the innkeeper and his family for breakfast.

A knife and fork were certainly elegant and refined, but they weren't very effective. That cursed Rience wouldn't have spared my life. He'd have squeezed everything from me and then butchered me like a sheep. I'm indebted to you, beautiful lady, and I shall repay the debt in my songs.

I shall explode the myth which claims wizards are insensitive to the pain of others, that they are rarely eager to help poor, unfortunate, unfamiliar mortals. But you're not a stranger, Dandilion. I know you and like you. I've even heard the rumour that you can't stand me, I quote, any more than the plague.

Later, I was grateful to you. Those you were asked in the pigsty while your arms were being twisted out of their sockets. What really happened, Dandilion? Have you really not seen Geralt since you fled the banks of the Yaruga? Did you really not know he returned south after the war? That he was seriously wounded -so seriously there were even rumours of his death? Didn't you know anything? I didn't. I stayed in Pont Vanis for a long time, in Esterad Thyssen's court. And then at Niedamir's in Hengfors—' 'You didn't know.

A black velvet ribbon wound around her neck, an obsidian star set with diamonds hanging from it. You can't guess who he was looking for? But I don't know if he found her. Even such intimate matters as someone else's feelings. I listened to your ballads beneath Bleobheris, Dandilion. You dedicated a good few verses to me. No one should be offended—' '"I lair like a raven's wing, as a storm in the night.

How did it go? Hard as if of diamond made, and as a diamond so unfeeling, sharper than obsidian, cutting—" Did you make that up yourself? Or perhaps. For a long time I didn't see anybody. Well, back to the point, Poet. I am a little surprised to discover that you do not know anything, you have not heard anything and that, in spite of this, someone searching for information picked you out to stretch over a beam.

Doesn't that worry you? Strike that ballad from your repertoire. Do not sing it again. Sing about the war against Nilfgaard. Sing about Geralt and me, you'll neither harm nor help anyone in the process, you'll make nothing any better or worse. But do not sing about the Lion Cub of Cintra.

And do try to avoid one-to-one meetings with people you don't know,' she said quietly. Yennefer smiled. His astonishment must have been evident and his expression amusing because the sorceress allowed herself a quite derisive grimace. You're on your way back from Verden and he's interested in hearing what's being said at King Ervyll's court.

He asked me to convey that this time your report should be to the point, detailed and under no circumstances in verse. Prose, Dandilion. He remained silent, pondering the question. But the enchantress anticipated him.

A time of change is coming. It would be a shame to grow old with the uncomfortable conviction that one had done nothing to ensure that these changes are for the better. Don't you agree? I would like to know who they were, what they wanted, who sent them. You killed them both, but rumour has it that you can draw information even from the dead. Let it go, Dandilion. Those thugs probably didn't know much anyway. The one who escaped. He's another matter. He was a wizard, wasn't he?

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But not a very proficient one. I saw how he did it - he teleported, didn't he? Doesn't that prove anything?

That someone helped him. Rience had neither the time nor the strength to open an oval portal suspended in the air. A portal like that is no joke. It's clear that someone else opened it. Someone far more powerful.

That's why I was afraid to chase him, not knowing where I would land. But I sent some pretty hot stuff after him. He's going to need a lot of spells and some effective burn elixirs, and will remain marked for some time.

They're comfortable and handy - they can even be hidden in a cleavage—' 'It's not the knife. When he was questioning me he used the term "battle for Cintra", "conquest of the town" or something along those lines. I've never heard anyone describe those events like that. For us, it has always been a massacre.

The Massacre of Cintra. No one refers to it by any other name. You have a sensitive ear. It was valuable. Tell me, Yennefer, why is Nilfgaard so interested in Geralt and the girl from Cintra? But I'm not searching for a subject for a ballad. Let's take it that he finally came to believe in the power of destiny, and took the child with him. Where to? Rience tried to force it out of me with torture. But you know, Yennefer.

You know where the witcher is hiding. Warned that the likes of Rience are looking for him and the little girl? I would go, but I honestly don't know where it is. That place whose name I prefer not to say. You owe him that, Yennefer. There was, after all, something between you. That's why I know him a bit. He does not like having help imposed on him. And if he was in need of it he would seek it from those he could trust. A year has gone by since those events and I.

I've not had any news from him. And as for our debt, I owe him exactly as much as he owes me. No more and no less. They might come after you again; the less you know the better. Vanish from here. And I warn you once more: Forget about Ciri. Pretend you have never heard the name. Do as I ask.

I wouldn't like anything bad to happen to you. I like you too much, owe you too much—' 'You've said that already. What do you owe me, Yennefer? You were a friend to him. You were with him. He had little but trouble because of me.

He constantly had to get me out of some scrape. Her eyes held regret. Stay in Dijkstra's and Filippa's care. Don't play at being a hero. You have got yourself mixed up in a dangerous affair, Dandilion. You are the only one who knows where to look for him. You know the way. I guess you used to be Dandilion saw her lips pinch, the muscles in her cheek quiver.

But never uninvited. Clouds sped across the sphere of the moon, momentarily illuminating the great castle, drenching the moat and few remaining walls in a pale glow undulating with shadows, and revealing mounds of skulls baring their broken teeth and staring into nothingness through the black holes of their eye-sockets.

Ciri squealed sharply and hid her face in the witcher's cloak. The mare, prodded on by the witcher's heels, carefully stepped over a pile of bricks and passed through the broken arcade. Her horseshoes, ringing against the flagstones, awoke weird echoes between the walls, muffled by the howling gale. Ciri trembled, digging her hands into the horse's mane.

This is Kaer Morhen, the Witchers' Keep.

There used to be a beautiful castle here. A long time ago. The witcher's mare, called Roach, snorted quietly, as if she too wanted to reassure the girl. They immersed themselves in a dark abyss, in a long, unending black tunnel dotted with columns and arcades. Roach stepped confidently and willingly, ignoring the impenetrable darkness, and her horseshoes rang brightly against the floor. In front of them, at the end of the tunnel, a straight, vertical line suddenly flared with a red light.

Growing taller and wider it became a door beyond which was a faint glow, the flickering brightness of torches stuck in iron mounts on the walls. A black figure stood framed in the door, blurred by the brightness. It's me. He wasn't human. Although he stood on two legs, although he smelled of sweat and smoke, although he wore ordinary human clothes, he was not human.

No human can have a face like that, she thought. She didn't move. In the darkness she heard the clatter of Roach's horseshoes grow fainter. Something soft and squeaking ran over her foot. She jumped. The rats bolted out from beneath her feet with a squeak. Eskel leaned over, took the package from her and pulled back her hood. That's all we need. Eskel was smiling. She saw that he was human after all, that he had an entirely human face, deformed by a long, ugly, semi-circular scar running from the corner of his mouth across the length of his cheek up to the ear.

Eskel turned around.

Suddenly, quickly, wordlessly, the witchers fell into each other's arms and wound their shoulders around each other tight and hard.

For one brief moment. I'm closing the inner gates to stop the heat escaping. There were rats here, too; they flitted under the walls, squeaked from the dark abyss, from the branching passages, and skittered before the swaying circle of light thrown by the torch. Ciri walked quickly, trying to keep up with the men. Apart from Vesemir? A gleam was visible below them. Ciri heard voices, detected the smell of smoke. The hall was enormous, and flooded with light from a huge hearth roaring with flames which were being sucked up into the heart of the chimney.

The centre of the hall was taken up by an enormous, heavy table. At least ten people could sit around that table. There were three.

Three humans. Three witchers, Ciri corrected herself. She saw nothing but their silhouettes against the fire in the hearth. We've been waiting for you. Greetings, lads. It's good to be home again. She walked awkwardly, hesitantly, huddled up and hunched, her head lowered.

I'm frightened, she thought. I'm very frightened. When Geralt found me, when he took me with him, I thought the fear wouldn't come back. I thought it had passed. And now, instead of being at home, I'm in this terrible, dark, ruined old castle full of rats and dreadful echoes.

I'm standing in front of a red wall of fire again. I see sinister black figures, I see dreadful, menacing, glistening eyes staring at me— 'Who is this child, Wolf? Who is this girl? She felt his strong, hard hands on her shoulders. And suddenly the fear disappeared, vanished without a trace.

The roaring red fire gave out warmth. Only warmth. The black silhouettes were the silhouettes of friends. Their glistening eyes expressed curiosity. And unease. Geralt's hands clenched over her shoulders. They are rogues without virtue, conscience or scruple, true diabolic creations, fit only for killing. There is no place amidst honest men for such as they.

And Kaer Morhen, where these infamous beings nestle, where they perform their foul practices, must be wiped from the surface of this earth, and all trace of it strewn with salt and saltpetre.

Anonymous, Monstrum, or Description of the Witcher Intolerance and superstition has always been the domain of the more stupid amongst the common folk and, I conjecture, will never be uprooted, for they are as eternal as stupidity itself. There, where mountains tower today, one day there will be seas; there where today seas surge, will one day be deserts.

But stupidity will remain stupidity. Her horse, a gelding, immediately reacted to the spell, snorting and turning its head, looking at the enchantress with eyes made watery by the cold and wind. The magician leaned over in the saddle, avoiding being lashed by the frosty branches.

The magic worked quickly; she stopped feeling the sting of cold in her elbows and on her neck and the unpleasant sensation of cold which had made her hunch her shoulders and draw her head in disappeared. The spell, warming her, also muffled the hunger which had been eating at her for several hours.

Triss cheered up, made herself comfortable in the saddle and, with greater attention than before, started to take stock of her surroundings. Ever since she had left the beaten track, she had been guided by the greyish-white wall of mountains and their snow-capped summits which glistened gold in those rare moments when the sun pierced the clouds - usually in the morning or just before sunset. Now that she was closer to the mountain chain she had to take greater care.

The land around Kaer Morhen was famous for its wildness and inaccessibility, and the gap in the granite wall that was a vital landmark was not easy for an inexperienced eye to find..

It was enough to turn down one of the numerous gullies and gorges to lose sight of it. And even she who knew the land, knew the way and knew where to look for the pass, could not allow herself to lose her concentration for an instant. The forest came to an end. A wide valley opened before the enchantress, strewn with boulders which ran across the valley to the sheer mountain-slope on the other side.

The Gwenllech, the River of White Stones, flowed down the heart of the valley, foam seething between the boulders and logs washed along by the current. Here, in its upper reaches, the Gwenllech was no more than a wide but shallow stream. Up here it could be crossed without any difficulty. Lower down, in Kaedwen, in its middle reaches, the river was an insurmountable obstacle, rushing and breaking against the beds of its deep chasms.

The gelding, driven into the water, hastened its step, clearly wanting to reach the opposite bank as quickly as possible. Triss held it back lightly - the stream was shallow, reaching just above the horse's fetlocks but the pebbles covering the bed were slippery and the current was sharp and quick.

The water churned and foamed around her mount's legs. The magician looked up at the sky. The growing cold and increasing wind here, in the mountains, could herald a blizzard and she did not find the prospect of spending yet another night in a grotto or rocky nook too attractive. She could, if she had to, continue her journey even through a blizzard; she could locate the path using telepathy, she could - using magic make herself insensitive to the cold.

She could, if she had to. But she preferred not to have to. Luckily, Kaer Morhen was already close. Triss urged the gelding on to flat scree, over an enormous heap of stones washed down by glaciers and streams, and rode into a narrow pass between rocky outcrops. The gorge walls rose vertically and seemed to meet high above her, only divided by a narrow line of sky. It grew warmer, the wind howling above the rocks could no longer reach to lash and sting at her. The pass broadened, leading through a ravine and then into the valley, opening onto a huge depression, covered by forest, which stretched out amidst jagged boulders.

The magician ignored the gentle, accessible depression rim and rode down towards the forest, into the thick backwoods. Dry branches cracked under the gelding's hooves. Forced to step over fallen tree trunks, the horse snorted, danced and stamped. Triss pulled at the reins, tugged at her mount's shaggy ear and scolded it harshly with spiteful allusions to its lameness.

The steed, looking for all the world as though it were ashamed of itself, walked with a more even and sprightly gait and picked its way through the thicket. Before long they emerged onto clearer land, riding along the trough of a stream which barely trickled along the ravine bed. The magician looked around carefully, finally finding what she was looking for.

Over the gully, supported horizontally by enormous boulders, lay a mighty tree trunk, dark, bare and turning green with moss. Triss rode closer, wanting to make sure this was, indeed, the Trail and not a tree accidentally felled in a gale.

But she spied a narrow, indistinct pathway disappearing into the woods. She could not be mistaken - this was definitely the Trail, a path encircling the old castle of Kaer Morhen and beset with obstacles, where witchers trained to improve their running speeds and controlled breathing. The path was known as the Trail, but Triss knew young witchers had given it their own name: The Killer. She clung to the horse's neck and slowly rode under the trunk. At that moment, she heard stones grating.

And the fast, light footsteps of someone running. She turned in her saddle, pulled on the reins and waited for the witcher to run out onto the log.

A witcher did run out onto the log, flitted along it like an arrow without slowing down, without even using his arms to aid his balance - running nimbly, fluently, with incredible grace. He flashed by, approaching and disappearing amongst the trees without disturbing a single branch. Triss sighed loudly, shaking her head in disbelief. Because the witcher, judging by his height and build, was only about twelve.

The magician eased the reins, nudged the horse with her heels and trotted upstream. She knew the Trail cut across the ravine once more, at a spot known as the Gullet. She wanted to catch a glimpse of the little witcher once again - children had not been trained in Kaer Morhen for near to a quarter of a century. She was not in a great hurry. The narrow Killer path meandered and looped its way through the forest and, in order to master it, the little witcher would take far longer than she would, following the shortcut.

However, she could not loiter either. Beyond the Gullet, the Trail turned into the woods and led straight to the fortress. If she did not catch the boy at the precipice, she might not see him at all. She had already visited Kaer Morhen a few times, and knew she saw only what the witchers wanted her to see. Triss was not so naive as to be unaware that they wanted to show her only a tiny fraction of the things to be seen in Kaer Morhen. After a few minutes riding along the stony trough of the stream she caught sight of the Gullet - a leap over the gully created by two huge mossy rocks, overgrown with gnarled, stunted trees.

She released the reins. The horse snorted and lowered its head towards the water trickling between pebbles. She did not have to wait long. The witcher's silhouette appeared on the rock and the boy jumped, not slowing his pace.

The magician heard the soft smack of his landing and a moment later a rattle of stones, the dull thud of a fall and a quiet cry. Or rather, a squeal. Triss instantly leaped from her saddle, threw the fur off her shoulders and dashed across the mountainside, pulling herself up using tree branches and roots.

Momentum aided her climb until she slipped on the conifer needles and fell to her knees next to a figure huddled on the stones. The youngster, on seeing her, jumped up like a spring, backed away in a flash and nimbly grabbed the sword slung across his back - then tripped and collapsed between the junipers and pines. The magician did not rise from her knees; she stared at the boy and opened her mouth in surprise.

Because it was not a boy. From beneath an ash-blonde fringe, poorly and unevenly cut, enormous emerald eyes - the predominant features in a small face with a narrow chin and upturned nose - stared out at her.

There was fear in the eyes. The girl opened her eyes even wider. She was hardly out of breath and did not appear to be sweating. It was clear she had already run the Killer more than once. She was dressed in a sort of leather suit sewn together — or rather stuck together — in a way which would make any tailor who took pride in his craft howl in horror and despair. The only pieces of her equipment which seemed to be relatively new, and fitted her, were her knee-high boots, her belts and her sword.

More precisely, her little sword. She sat down and carefully straightened her foot, swearing once more. In that case, what are you? So, come here and help me get up, witcher. She shifted her weight from foot to foot, and her hands, in their fingerless, woollen gloves, toyed with her sword belt as she glanced suspiciously at Triss. The witchers know me. Don't gape at me. I respect your suspicion, but be reasonable.

Would I have got this far if I hadn't known the way? Have you ever met a human on the Trail? Triss stood with only a little assistance.

Because she was not concerned with having help. She wanted a closer look at the girl. And to touch her. The green eyes of the little witcher-girl betrayed no signs of mutation, and the touch of her little hand did not produce the slight, pleasant tingling sensation so characteristic of witchers.

Although she ran the Killer path with a sword slung across her back, the ashen-haired girl had not been subjected to the Trial of Grasses or to Changes. Of that, Triss was certain. But surely you have a name? A bit closer if you please, Ciri. Ah, that's what I thought. Stand still and don't be scared.

The girl bent over and gazed at her knee. And there's no hole. Was that magic? Although I prefer to be called an enchantress. To avoid getting it wrong you can call me by my name, Triss. Just Triss. Come on, Ciri. My horse is waiting at the bottom. We'll go to Kaer Morhen together. Geralt says—' 'Geralt is at the keep?

Triss chuckled again. A secret's a secret, and you're right not to disclose it to someone you hardly know.

Come on. When we get there we'll see who's at the castle and who isn't. And don't worry about your muscles — I know what to do about lactic acid. Ah, here's my mount. I'll help you. She jumped agilely into the saddle, lightly, almost without taking off. The gelding started, surprised, and stamped, but the girl quickly took up the reins and reassured it.

Witcher Blood of Elves

And don't poke my eye out with that sword. Now the dark elves live in exile, the hated rivals of the elves of the light - including the battered remnants of their mysterious twilight elf kin. Whether you become a bloodthirsty dark elf cleric, a dark elf fighter exiled for her purity and goodness, or even an honorable twilight elf soldier, this book gives you the knowledge, the skills and the equipment to begin your adventure!

Join the dark elves in their quest for dominance, or side with the twilight elves as they guard their ancient home against their evil-touched kin. Become a brother of the twilight fist, divine chorister, guild artificer, hellbound, keel'thaile, or sister of the obsidian gaz'zirad. These sections contain normal and magic weapons, tools, armor, alchemy, poison and more.

Learn special details about life below the surface and how to master the special abilities that life in the ebon depths requires! From your ballad, however, it would appear that the child survived. I am truly interested to know if this is your imagination at work, or the truth? True or false? I wished to excite my listeners and arouse their curiosity. Goodbye, my friend. You have used up all the time I can spare you.

And two of my many inspirations are waiting out there, wondering which of them I will choose. He stared at the poet with his unfriendly, moist eyes, and the poet felt a growing unease.

A merry din came from the bawdy-house's main room, punctuated from time to time by high-pitched feminine giggles. Dandilion turned his head away, pretending to show derisive haughtiness but, in fact, he was judging the distance to the corner of the room and the tapestry showing a nymph sprinkling her breasts with water poured from a jug. I have to know the answer. It's incredibly important to me. To you, too, believe me, because if you answer of your own free will then—' 'Then what? He is a true artist in his field.

He'll kick your arse so hard you'll soar over the town roofs with such magnificence that the few people passing by at this hour will take you for a Pegasus. Nor did he intend to wait. Before the stiletto had locked in Rience's hand Dandilion had taken a long leap to the corner of the room, dived under the nymph tapestry, kicked open a secret door and rushed headlong down the winding stairs, nimbly steering himself with the aid of the well-worn banisters.

Rience darted after him, but the poet was sure of himself - he knew the secret passage like the back of his hand, having used it numerous times to flee creditors, jealous husbands and furious rivals from whom he had, from time to time, stolen rhymes and tunes. He knew that after the third turning he would be able to grope for a revolving door, behind which there was a ladder leading down to the cellar.

He was sure that his persecutor would be unable to stop in time, would run on and step on a trapdoor through which he would fall and land in the pigsty. He was equally sure that - bruised, covered in shit and mauled by the pigs - his persecutor would give up the chase. Dandilion was mistaken, as was usually the case whenever he was too confident. Something flashed a sudden blue behind his back and the poet felt his limbs grow numb, lifeless and stiff.

He couldn't slow down for the revolving door, his legs wouldn't obey him. He yelled and rolled down the stairs, bumping against the walls of the little corridor. The trapdoor opened beneath him with a dry crack and the troubadour tumbled down into the darkness and stench.

Before thumping his head on the dirt floor and losing consciousness, he remembered Mama Lantieri saying something about the pigsty being repaired. The pain in his constricted wrists and shoulders, cruelly twisted in their joints, brought him back to his senses. He wanted to scream but couldn't; it felt as though his mouth had been stuck up with clay. He was kneeling on the dirt floor with a creaking rope hauling him up by his wrists. He tried to stand, wanting to ease the pressure on his shoulders, but his legs, too, were tied together.

Choking and suffocating he somehow struggled to his feet, helped considerably by the rope which tugged mercilessly at him. Rience was standing in front of him and his evil eyes glinted in the light of a lantern held aloft by an unshaven ruffian who stood over six feet tall. Another ruffian, probably no shorter, stood behind him. Dandilion could hear his breathing and caught a whiff of stale sweat. It was the reeking man who tugged on the rope looped over a roof beam and fastened to the poet's wrists.

Dandilion's feet tore off the dirt floor. The poet whistled through his nose, unable to do anything more. The bard's feet touched the ground but, despite his most heart-felt desire, he could not kneel again - the tight drawn rope was still holding him as taut as a string.

Rience came closer. There was not even a trace of emotion on his face; the damp eyes had not changed their expression in the least. His tone of voice, too, remained calm, quiet, even a little bored. You runt. You scum. You arrogant nobody. You tried to run from me? No one has escaped me yet. We haven't finished our conversation, you clown, you sheep's head. I asked you a question under much pleasanter circumstances than these. Now you are going to answer all my questions, and in far less pleasant circumstances.

Only now did Rience smile and make a sign. The bard squealed helplessly, feeling the rope tighten and his arms, twisted backwards, cracking in their joints. You can't talk,' Rience confirmed, still smiling loathsomely, 'and it hurts, doesn't it? For the moment, you should know I'm having you strung up like this for my own pleasure just because I love watching people suffer. Go on, just a little higher. I'm going to lift the spell so you can talk.

But if you try to raise your charming voice any louder than necessary, you'll be sorry. And if you stammer or hesitate even for a moment, if you give me the slightest reason to doubt the truth of your words, then.

Look down. He discovered to his horror that a short rope had been tied to the knots around his ankles, with a bucket full of lime attached to the other end. After that, I doubt you will be capable of playing anything on a lute. I really doubt it.

So I think you'll talk to me. But Rience did not seem to require confirmation. This is a trifle for me - just as paralysing you on the stairs was a trifle.

So I advise you to weigh each word with care, you piece of scum. So, let's get on with it and stop wasting time. As you know, I'm interested in the heroine of one of your beautiful ballads, Queen Calanthe of Cintra's granddaughter, Princess Cirilla, endearingly known as Ciri.

According to eye-witnesses this little person died during the siege of the town, two years ago. Whereas in your ballad you so vividly and touchingly described her meeting a strange, almost legendary individual, the. Geralt, or Gerald. Leaving the poetic drivel about destiny and the decrees of fate aside, from the rest of the ballad it seems the child survived the Battle of Cintra in one piece. Is that true? I've heard this and that, and the rest.

Made it up! I don't know anything! But you are beating about the bush. You wouldn't have thought the ballad up just like that, not without reason. And you do know the witcher, after all. You have often been seen in his company.

So talk, Dandilion, if you treasure your joints. Everything you know. She's a so-called Child Surprise. You must have heard it, the story's well known. Her parents swore to hand her over to the witcher—' 'Her parents are supposed to have handed the child over to that crazed mutant?

That murderous mercenary? You're lying, rhymester. Keep such tales for women. The witcher—' 'Talk about the girl. For the moment I'm not interested in the witcher. I only know that the witcher was going to fetch her from Cintra when the war broke out.

I met him at the time. He heard about the massacre, about Calanthe's death, from me. He asked me about the child, the queen's granddaughter. But I knew everyone in Cintra was killed, not a single soul in the last bastion survived—' 'Go on.

Fewer metaphors, more hard facts! We both escaped north. We parted ways in Hengfors and I haven't seen him since. But because he talked, on the way, a bit about this.

Ciri, or whatever-her-name-is. Well, I made up this ballad. I don't know any more, I swear! And now you're going to listen carefully to me. Answer my questions precisely. The question is: if no one has seen Geralt, or Gerald, the Witcher for over a year, where is he hiding? Where does he usually hide? I really don't know—' 'Too quick, Dandilion, too quick.

You are cunning but not careful enough. You don't know where it is, you say. But I warrant you know what it is. What is the place called?

The rope tightened, twisting his hands painfully, and his feet left the ground. Dandilion let out a howl, brief and broken because Rience's wizardly ring immediately gagged him. Besides, I like seeing people's eyes pop out of their sockets from pain.

And you're going to tell me anyway. The rope secured to his ankles grew taut, the bucket of lime scraped along the ground. A lass, I think. Light broke in from the bawdyhouse through gaps in the planks, and the poet heard the singing and hubbub. The door to the pigsty creaked open revealing a short figure wrapped in a cloak and wearing a round, tightly fitting cap.

After a moment's hesitation, the woman crossed the threshold. The reeking man threw himself at her, slashing forcefully with his knife, and tumbled to his knees as the knife met with no resistance, passing through the figure's throat as though through a cloud of smoke. Because the figure really was a cloud of smoke - one which was already starting to disperse. But before it completely vanished another figure burst into the pigsty, indistinct, dark and nimble as a weasel.

Dandilion saw it throw a cloak at the lantern man, jump over the reeking one, saw something glisten in its hand, and heard the reeking man wheeze and choke savagely. The lantern man disentangled himself from the cloak, jumped, took a swing with his knife. A fiery lightning bolt shot from the dark figure with a hiss, slapped over the tough's face and chest with a crack and spread over him like flaming oil. The ruffian screamed piercingly and the grim reek of burning meat filled the pigsty.

Then Rience attacked. The spell he cast illuminated the darkness with a bluish flash in which Dandilion saw a slender woman wearing man's clothes gesticulating strangely with both hands. He only glimpsed her for a second before the blue glow disappeared with a bang and a blinding flash.

Rience fell back with a roar of fury and collapsed onto the wooden pigsty walls, breaking them with a crash. The woman dressed in man's clothing leapt after him, a stiletto flashing in her hand.

The pigsty filled with brightness again - this time golden beaming from a bright oval which suddenly appeared in the air. Dandilion saw Rience spring up from the dusty floor, leap into the oval and immediately disappear. The oval dimmed but, before it went out entirely, the woman ran up to it shouting incomprehensively, stretching out her hand. Something crackled and rustled and the dying oval boiled with roaring flames for a moment.

A muffled sound, as if coming from a great distance, reached Dandilion's ears - a sound very much like a scream of pain. The oval went out completely and darkness engulfed the pigsty again. The poet felt the power which gagged him disappear. Is that you? And I'm sure my voice is not unfamiliar to your musical ear. Can you get up? They didn't break any bones, did they? I've a few questions for him.

There might still be a little murmur in him but not for long. Let's look at the other one. Bloody hell. Such a sturdy fellow and he still couldn't take it. Pity, pity ' 'He's dead, too? I fried him a little too haul.

See, even his teeth are charred— What's the matter with you, Dandilion? Are you going to be sick? Haven't forgotten anything? Apart from "thank you". Thank you, Yennefer. She slipped the roast chicken onto a trencher and began dividing it skilfully, She used a knife and fork. Dandilion had only known one person, up until then, who could eat a chicken with a knife and fork as skilfully.

Now he knew how, and from whom, Geralt had learnt the knack. Well, he thought, no wonder. After all, he did live with her for a year in Vengerberg and before he left her, she had instilled a number of strange things into him. He pulled the other chicken from the skewer and, without a second thought, ripped off a thigh and began eating it, pointedly holding it with both hands. Then I followed you into town. I waited here, in the tavern - it wasn't fitting, after all, for me to follow you in to that haven of dubious delight and certain gonorrhoea.

But I eventually became impatient and was wandering around the yard when I thought I heard voices coming from the pigsty. I sharpened my hearing and it turned out it wasn't, as I'd first thought, some sodomite but you.

Hey, innkeeper! More wine, if you please! Quick as a flash! I can only tolerate water in a bath, in wine I find it quite loathsome. There was still enough meat on the chicken, Dandilion noticed, to feed the innkeeper and his family for breakfast. A knife and fork were certainly elegant and refined, but they weren't very effective. That cursed Rience wouldn't have spared my life. He'd have squeezed everything from me and then butchered me like a sheep. I'm indebted to you, beautiful lady, and I shall repay the debt in my songs.

I shall explode the myth which claims wizards are insensitive to the pain of others, that they are rarely eager to help poor, unfortunate, unfamiliar mortals. But you're not a stranger, Dandilion. I know you and like you. I've even heard the rumour that you can't stand me, I quote, any more than the plague. Later, I was grateful to you.

Those you were asked in the pigsty while your arms were being twisted out of their sockets. What really happened, Dandilion? Have you really not seen Geralt since you fled the banks of the Yaruga? Did you really not know he returned south after the war?

That he was seriously wounded -so seriously there were even rumours of his death? Didn't you know anything? I didn't.

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I stayed in Pont Vanis for a long time, in Esterad Thyssen's court. And then at Niedamir's in Hengfors—' 'You didn't know. A black velvet ribbon wound around her neck, an obsidian star set with diamonds hanging from it. You can't guess who he was looking for? But I don't know if he found her. Even such intimate matters as someone else's feelings. I listened to your ballads beneath Bleobheris, Dandilion.

You dedicated a good few verses to me. No one should be offended—' '"I lair like a raven's wing, as a storm in the night. How did it go? Hard as if of diamond made, and as a diamond so unfeeling, sharper than obsidian, cutting—" Did you make that up yourself?

Or perhaps. For a long time I didn't see anybody. Well, back to the point, Poet. I am a little surprised to discover that you do not know anything, you have not heard anything and that, in spite of this, someone searching for information picked you out to stretch over a beam. Doesn't that worry you? Strike that ballad from your repertoire. Do not sing it again. Sing about the war against Nilfgaard.

Sing about Geralt and me, you'll neither harm nor help anyone in the process, you'll make nothing any better or worse. But do not sing about the Lion Cub of Cintra. And do try to avoid one-to-one meetings with people you don't know,' she said quietly.

Yennefer smiled. His astonishment must have been evident and his expression amusing because the sorceress allowed herself a quite derisive grimace. You're on your way back from Verden and he's interested in hearing what's being said at King Ervyll's court.

He asked me to convey that this time your report should be to the point, detailed and under no circumstances in verse. Prose, Dandilion. He remained silent, pondering the question. But the enchantress anticipated him. A time of change is coming.

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It would be a shame to grow old with the uncomfortable conviction that one had done nothing to ensure that these changes are for the better. Don't you agree? I would like to know who they were, what they wanted, who sent them. You killed them both, but rumour has it that you can draw information even from the dead. Let it go, Dandilion. Those thugs probably didn't know much anyway.

The one who escaped. He's another matter. He was a wizard, wasn't he? But not a very proficient one. I saw how he did it - he teleported, didn't he? Doesn't that prove anything? That someone helped him. Rience had neither the time nor the strength to open an oval portal suspended in the air. A portal like that is no joke. It's clear that someone else opened it. Someone far more powerful.

That's why I was afraid to chase him, not knowing where I would land. But I sent some pretty hot stuff after him. He's going to need a lot of spells and some effective burn elixirs, and will remain marked for some time.

They're comfortable and handy - they can even be hidden in a cleavage—' 'It's not the knife. When he was questioning me he used the term "battle for Cintra", "conquest of the town" or something along those lines. I've never heard anyone describe those events like that.

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For us, it has always been a massacre. The Massacre of Cintra. No one refers to it by any other name. You have a sensitive ear. It was valuable. Tell me, Yennefer, why is Nilfgaard so interested in Geralt and the girl from Cintra? But I'm not searching for a subject for a ballad. Let's take it that he finally came to believe in the power of destiny, and took the child with him. Where to? Rience tried to force it out of me with torture.

But you know, Yennefer. You know where the witcher is hiding. Warned that the likes of Rience are looking for him and the little girl? I would go, but I honestly don't know where it is. That place whose name I prefer not to say.

You owe him that, Yennefer. There was, after all, something between you. That's why I know him a bit. He does not like having help imposed on him. And if he was in need of it he would seek it from those he could trust. A year has gone by since those events and I. I've not had any news from him. And as for our debt, I owe him exactly as much as he owes me.

No more and no less. They might come after you again; the less you know the better. Vanish from here. And I warn you once more: forget the Lion Cub of Cintra. Forget about Ciri. Pretend you have never heard the name. Do as I ask. I wouldn't like anything bad to happen to you.

I like you too much, owe you too much—' 'You've said that already. What do you owe me, Yennefer? You were a friend to him. You were with him.But it seems you have muddled the stories, boys. You killed them both, but rumour has it that you can draw information even from the dead.

Here, in its upper reaches, the Gwenllech was no more than a wide but shallow stream. The narrow streets leading to the moat and the first terrace belched smoke and embers, flames devouring the densely clustered thatched houses and licking at the castle walls. The bird shrieks. Momentum aided her climb until she slipped on the conifer needles and fell to her knees next to a figure huddled on the stones.

And at your prices, Lantieri, I cannot afford them both. You're on your way back from Verden and he's interested in hearing what's being said at King Ervyll's court. The arm around her suffocated her, choking her, the force compressing her ribs.