The Witcher – fourth story
As you can imagine, the transmedial storytelling around Wiedźmin [The Witcher] combines many of my interests. Therefore, I wish to contribute to this phenomenon by means of a new translation (from Polish to English) of the short stories from the collection Ostatnie życzenie (The Last Wish) by Andrzej Sapkowski. Because of Covid, I could not meet my teacher Sławomir, but last week, he double checked this fourth story for me. ^_^ Please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions.
The next day, late in the evening, the miller was brought to the chamber above the guardhouse in which the Witcher was accommodated. He was brought in by a soldier in a hooded cloak.
The conversation did not give much results. The miller was terrified, mumbled and stammered. The miller’s scars spoke more than he did. The Stryga had an impressive jaw spacing and really sharp teeth, including very long upper fangs – four, two on each side. The claws were probably sharper than the wildcat teeth, although less curved. This is the only reason why the miller managed to pull them out.
After the inspection, Geralt nodded at the miller and soldier, briefing them. The soldier pushed the peasant out the door and took off the hood. It was Foltest himself.
– Stay seated, don’t get up, said the king. – Unofficial visit. You happy with the interview? I heard you were in the courthouse before noon.
– Yes, sir.
– When are you going to start?
– Until the full four days. After the full moon.
– You’d rather look at it yourself?
– There’s no need for that. But with a full belly… the queen… …will be less active.
– The Stryga, master, the stryga. Let’s not play diplomacy. She’ll become the queen.
That’s what I came to talk to you about. Answer, unofficially, briefly and clearly: will she or won’t she?
Just don’t shield yourself behind some rules.
Geralt rubbed his forehead.
– I can assure you, my King, that the spell can be undone. And if I am not wrong, by spending the night in the mansion. A third rooster crowing, as long as it surprises the Stryga outside of the sarcophagus, will undo the spell. This is what you usually do with Stryga’s.
– So simple?
– That is not simple. You have to survive that night, that’s one. Deviations from the rule are also possible. For example, not one night, but three nights. In a row. There are also cases… just… hopeless.
– Yes – Foltest snorted – I keep hearing that from some. Killing the monster, it is an impossible case. Master, I am sure, that you have already been spoken to. What? To butcher the man-eater without any further ado, from the very beginning, and tell the King that it was impossible otherwise. The King will not pay, we will pay. A convenient way. And cheap. Because the King will have the Witcher beheaded or hanged and the gold will stay in the pocket.
– The King will unconditionally behead the Witcher? – Geralt grimaced
For a long time, Foltest looked in the Rivian’s eyes.
– The King doesn’t know – he eventually said. But the Witcher should rather reckon with the possibility.
Now, Geralt was a quiet for a moment.
– I intend to do what I can – he said after a while. – But if it goes wrong, I shall defend my life. You, Highness, have to reckon with that possibility as well.
Foltest got up.
– You do not understand me. That’s not the point. It is clear that you will kill her, when things get hot, whether I like it or not.
Because otherwise she will certainly kill you. I am not spreading the word, but I won’t punish anyone who killed her in self-defence.
But I won’t allow for her to be killed, without trying to safe her first. Attempts have been made to set the old castle on fire, they shot arrows at her, they were digging trapping pits, set snare traps and bear traps. But that’s not the point. Master, listen!
– I’m listening.
– There won’t be any ghouls after the rooster has crowed three times, if I understand correctly. But what will happen?
– If everything goes well, a 14-year-old.
– Red-eyed? With teeth like a crocodile? – A normal fourteen-year-old. Except…
– You’ve managed to get yourself into a pretty kettle of fish! And mentally? A bucket of blood for breakfast every day? A girl’s leg?
– No. Mentally… It’s impossible to say… I think on the level of, I don’t know, a three or four years old child.
She will require careful care (???) for a long time.
– That’s clear. Master?
– I’m listening.
– Can it come back to her? Later?
The Witcher kept silent.
– Oh, said the king. – Maybe. And then what?
– If she would die, after fainting for several days, you have to burn the body. And quickly. –
Foltest got lost in his thoughts.
– But I don’t think that’s gonna happen, Geralt added. To be sure, I’ll give you, My Lord, some tips on how to reduce the danger.
– Already? Not too soon, master? What if…
– Already? – the Rivian interrupted. – It’s different, My King. You may find yourself in the morning the crypt of the disenchanted princess and my corpse.
– That bad? Despite my permission to defend myself? Which I don’t think you even cared about?
– This is a serious matter, My King. The risk is great. So listen: the queen must always wear a sapphire, preferably on a silver chain on her neck. Constantly. Day and night.
– What is this “inkluz”?
– A sapphire with a bubble inside the stone. In addition, juniper, broom and hazel twigs should be burnt in the fireplace from time to time.
Foltest started thinking.
– Thank you for your advice, master. I’ll follow them if… And now you listen to me carefully. If you find this case hopeless, you will kill her. If you make a charm and the girl is not… …normal… if you have a shadow of doubt that you’ve succeeded, you’ll kill her too. Don’t worry, you’re safe with me. I’ll yell at you in front of people, drive you out of the palace and out of town, nothing more. I won’t give the prize, of course. Maybe you’ll bargain something, you know from whom.
They were silent for a while.
– Geralt – Foltest first approached the Witcher by his name.
– I’m listening.
– How much truth is there in saying that the child was like that and not different because Adda was my sister?
– Not much. The spell must be cast. No spell is casts itself. But I think your relationship with your sister was the cause of the spell.
– I thought so. That’s what some of the Knowing said, although not all. Geralt? Where do these things come from? Witchcraft, magic?
– I don’t know, my king. The Knowing are investigating the causes of these phenomena. For us Witchers, it is enough to know that concentrated will can cause such phenomena. And know how to fight them.
Mostly. That’s what they pay us for most. Few demand charms, king. Usually people just want to protect themselves from danger. And if the monster has people on its conscience, there is a motive for revenge.
The king stood up, took a few steps after the chamber, stopped in front of the witcher’s sword hanging on the wall.
– With this? – He asked, not looking at Geralt.
– No. This one is for humans.
– I heard. You know what, Geralt? I’ll go to the crypt with you.
– Out of the question.
Foltest turned around, there was a shimmer in his eyes.
– Do you know, sorcerer, that I didn’t see her? Not at birth or… later.
I was scared. I may never see her again, may I? I have a right to at least see you murder her.
– I repeat, excluded. This is a certain death. For me too. If I lose my mind, I prefer… No, my king.
The Foltest has turned around, moved towards the door. Geralt seemed for a moment to leave without a word, without a farewell gesture, but the king stopped, looked at him.
– You’re inspiring confidence, he said. – Even though I know what a herb you are. I was told what happened at the inn. I’m sure you killed those thugs just to shake people up, me. It’s obvious to me that you could have defeated them without killing them. I’m afraid I’ll never know if you’re going to save my daughter or kill her. But I accept that. I have to agree. You know why?
Geralt didn’t answer.
– Because I think,” said the king, “I think she’s suffering. Don’t you?”
The witch is stuck in the king with his penetrating eyes. He didn’t nod, he didn’t make the slightest gesture, but Foltest knew. He knew the answer.
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