The Witcher – third story
As you can imagine, the transmedial storytelling around Wiedźmin [The Witcher] combines many of my interests. Therefore, one of my resolutions for 2020 is to contribute to this phenomenon by means of a new translation (from Polish to English). Every month, I translate one of the short stories from the collection Ostatnie życzenie (The Last Wish) by Andrzej Sapkowski. This is my work from March – with many thanks to my teacher Sławomir! Please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions.
Foltest was slim, and his face was pretty – too pretty. By the Witcher’s estimation, he had not yet reached his forties. He was sitting on a black carved armchair, his legs stretched out towards the hearth where two dogs were warming up. Next to him was an older, strongly built man with a beard. Behind the king stood a second man, richly clothed, with a proud expression on his face. Noble.
– The Witcher of Rivia, said the king after a moment of silence following Velerad’s initial speech.
– Yes, sir – Geralt bowed his head.
– What turned your hair this gray? Magic spells? I can see that you are not old. Allright, good. It’s a joke, don’t say anything. I dare suppose you have some experience?
– Yes sir.
– I’d like to hear it.
Geralt bowed even lower.
– You know, Lord, that our code prohibits us from talking about what we do.
– That’s a convenient code, dear Witcher, very convenient. But yes, without details, did you have to deal with Werebbubbs?
– With vampires, with Leszy?
– With Striga?
Geralt looked up, straight in the king’s eyes.
Foltest looked away.
– I’m listening, my Lord.
– Did you explain the details to him?
– Yes, sir. He claims that the princess can be conjured up.
– I know that for a long time. How do you feel about it, Witcher? Ah, right, I forgot. The Code. Well. Just one small note. I already had several Witchers here. Velerad, did you tell him that? Well. That’s why I know that your specialty is killing rather than acting on charms. This is out of the question. If my daughter loses a single hair from her head, then yours will end up on a chopping block. That’s it. Ostrit, and you, Mr. Segelin, you stay and give him as much information as he wants. They always ask a lot, these Witchers. Feed him and let him live in the palace. Don’t let him roam the taverns.
The king stood up, whistled to the dogs and headed for the door, scattering around the straw that covered the floor of the chamber. He turned around at the door.
– If you’ll succeed, Witcher, the prize is yours. Maybe I’ll add something if you do well. Of course, the common stories about marriage with the princess do not contain a single word of truth. Do you think I would marry my daughter to some random vagabond?
– No, Lord. I do not think so.
– Well. That proves that you are intelligent.
Foltest left, closing the door behind him. Velerad and the nobles who stood until now immediately sat at the table. The castellan finished the half-full goblet, looked into the pitcher and cursed. Ostrit, who took Foltest’s chair, stared at the Witcher, while he stroked the carved handrails with his hands. Segelin, the bearded man, nodded at Geralt.
– Sit down, my dear Witcher, sit down. They’ll serve supper in a minute. What would you like to talk about? Castellan Velerad has probably told you everything. I know him and I know he says too much rather than too little.
– Just a few questions.
– Ask them.
– The castellan said that after the appearance of the striga, the king summoned many Witchers.
– So it was. But don’t say “striga”, say “princess”. It’s easier to avoid such a mistake with the king… and related annoyances.
– Was there anyone amongst the Witchers that I know of? Anyone famous?
– They were both then and later. I don’t remember the names… And you, Mr. Ostrit?
– I don’t remember, said the nobleman. But I know that some enjoyed fame and recognition. There was a lot of talk about it.
– Were they unanimously agreed that the spell could be removed?
– They were far from agreement, Segelin smiled. In every subject. But such a statement was made. It was supposed to be simple, no magic skills required, and as I understood it, it should have been enough for someone to spend the night, from sundown to the third crowing of a rooster, under the ground near the sarcophagus.
– Sounds simple, indeed, snorted Velerad.
– I’d like to hear the description …of the princess.
Velerad leaped up from his chair.
– The princess looks like a vampire! he screamed. The most sharp-eyed striga I’ve ever heard of! Her majesty, the royal daughter, a damned big bastard, is four cubits tall, reminiscent of a barrel of beer, has a mug from ear to ear, full of teeth like daggers, red eyes and red shags! Huge hands with claws like a wildcat, hanging down to the ground. I am surprised that we have not yet started sending small portraits of her to our friendly courts! Princess, let the plague strangle her, she is already fourteen years old, it’s time to think about setting her up for some prince!
– Hold your horses, castellan! Ostrit frowned, glancing toward the door. Segelin smiled slightly.
– The description, although so pictorial, was reasonably accurate, and that was what the Witcher meant, right? Velerad forgot to add that the princess is moving at incredible speed and is much stronger than can be derived from her height and build. And being fourteen is a fact. Although far from important.
– What is important, the Witcher said, – is whether the attacks on people only occur during full moon?
– Yes, said Segelin. – And it only raids outside the old palace. Within the palace, regardless of the phase of the moon, people were always dying. But it only comes out during the full moon, and not every time.
– Was there not a single case of an attack during the day?
– No. Not during the day.
– Does she always devour her victims?
Velerad spat briskly on the straw.
– Damn you, Geralt! We are going to eat, soon. Pah. She eats, gnaws, leaves… depending on her mood, probably. She only bit off the head of one, gutted some, and a few she gnawed clean, stripped bare you could say… That’s how she rolls!
– Watch out, Velerad! Ostrit hissed. -Say what you want about the striga, but do not offend Adda when you are near me, as you wouldn’t dare to do so near the king.
– Was there anyone whom she attacked that survived? asked the Witcher, seemingly not paying attention to the outbursts of the noblemen.
Segelin and Ostrit looked at each other.
– Yes, said the bearded man. – At the very beginning, six years ago, she attacked two soldiers on guard at the crypt. One managed to escape.
– And later, said Velerad, – there was this miller she attacked outside the city. Remember?
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