The Last Call of the Wyvern – (15 min read)

This short story first appeared on I Love Videogames, as part of the special column “Tales from Video Games” (“Racconti Ludici”). This post is the official translation of the story, operated by the author. Chapter V, which was originally an extra piece outside of the main story, was cut from the original.

Please note: this story was intended as a tribute to both CD Projekt RED (and the astonishing work they made with The Witcher’s trilogy), and to the great Andrzej Sapkowski, original author of the literary saga “The Witcher” (“Wiedźmin” in Polish). All merits for the characters shall go to them; I merely put a story together in literary form and in my own style, inspired by a profound in-game experience that I had.

Prologue – The Legend of the Witcher and the Royal Wyvern

“Many times, dear reader, you may have heard of witchers and their extraordinary fighting abilities. Rude yet incomparable lovers and indefatigable warriors, witchers are constantly travelling along what they all call “The Path”, an everlasting pilgrimage on the roads of our dear and civilised world. They say witchers belong to a cursed race, less human than a nilfgaardian crown and a fake oren. In truth I shall say, dear reader, they are wrong: never was a race more noble and honourable than the witcher’s, and never the world will be able to see another just as brave. In a time long lost, we used to write songs and ballads and legends about them, marvelous stories chanting their perks with swords and damsels. There was only one thing, in truth, that legends were wrong about: for it is true, instead, that witchers’ performances are better in battle than in bed. And certainly not because your affectionate teller could try on his skin a monster hunter’s touch; but it is well known that there’s no living man, in all the Northern Kingdoms, who would rival with the lyrical talents of great Dandelion, the most gifted troubadour of the whole continent and the most elegant pen in Oxenfurt. Thou art lucky, then, that I am here personally to tell you about the differences between me and a humble witcher, although it is exactly a witcher one of my dearest friend and partner-in-peril: the legendary Geralt of Rivia, the greatest monster hunter ever existed.

“And now, sit down and suit yourself, dear reader, and feel free to stretch your radiant body if you happen to be a damsel: our story begins on the slopes of a tall mountain, a bit south of my beloved Oxenfurt, where our witcher was headed to look for some kind of equipment. How could he know that, on top of that majestic elevation, one of the most ancient and dangerous beasts of all Velen was already smelling for his arrival?

Chapter I – The Mount of the Dragon

“They say – or, rather, the witcher himself told me, between a temerian beer and the other – that, in an electric day on horse between the months of Imbolc and Birke, the Sun was just starting to fall on Crookback Bog, when Geralt’s Path led him to the base of a curious mountain. That was, dear reader, the biggest mountain our witcher had ever seen, at least in his last twentyfour hours. So stately that the Sun had already went down beyond the gigantic summit, so royal that it would have shaken the limbs of any creature gifted with intellect. Perhaps you might ask, at this point, why Geralt’s journey led him to that dreadful mountain, and why the witcher didn’t come back immediately at its sight; first of all, to answer your second question, you must know that our witcher never gives up in front of any creature or natural obstacle, unless that creature or obstacle is Yennefer of Vengerberg or Triss Merigold. As for the reasons of his journey, Geralt had recently purchased a mysterious map from an equally mysterious blacksmith, a map apparently belonging to the School of the Cat itself. According to that consumed scroll, the original owner had hidden some valuable schemes inside that mountain, and Geralt decided it was time to upgrade his equipment, to easily tackle the Skellige Island’s harsh weather.

“When he reached the base of the mountain, his loyal steed Roach stopped immediately in front of a cave, as dark as a Botchling’s orbits. Geralt’s fine nose, as usual, was more of a curse than a bless, as an awful stench of carcass and rotting flesh rose into the air as soon as our witcher could approach the cave. Bravely tightening his teeth and nostrils, Geralt, who was accustomed to the muddiest Drowner’s smell anyway, stepped into the cave and drank a whole vial of Cat potion, which is said to help witchers’ eyes in darkness. In all truth I shall say, dear reader, that I never was lucky enough to try one so far, and I wouldn’t know if such voices are true or just one of the many ways Geralt loves to make fun of me with.

“But back to our story: once into the cave, Geralt used his incomparable witcher senses to find any clues lying around to prove the treasure’s presence. A carving on the wall, hosting the School’s symbol, made him guess he was in the right place; and yet, our distracted witcher failed to notice a chest not far away from him – one that, if spotted, would have saved him a very intense and tiring afternoon. On the contrary, as he was climbing the whole mountain, Geralt noticed some fresh, bloodied corpses on the cave’s floor; and, distracted by their presence, he stepped closer to investigate.

Chapter II – The Temple of the Goddess

“«Some claw and poisoning marks, possibly due to a sharp stinger… A Wyvern», our witcher firmly stated, while looking at the corpses. In reality, Geralt told me in all confidence to have elaborated his thoughts in way more colourful expressions that that one, when he found the carcasses and understood he had to deal with a draconid. But it wouldn’t be appropriate to report the exact words; all you need to know, dear reader, is that master witcher wasn’t exactly fond of that result: a simple quest for more equipment could easily lead into a dangerous monster hunt, and Wyverns aren’t exactly the Continent’s friendliest creatures.

“Despite all that, the good witcher decided to carefully climb the mountain, cliff after cliff, secretly hoping to find the Cat’s equipment soon enough to flee from that dreadful place. In all truth, I know Geralt of Rivia quite well, and I can assure you that our hero would have not climbed down that mountain before at least trying to tackle the frightening monster. Something that, anyway, he was later forced to do by circumstances.

“As he climbed the rocky handholds inside the cave, Geralt came near to a much more uniform and wide plain compared to the ones he had just climbed, and he spotted a small opening above his head, apparently leading to the summit. On his right, the witcher saw a much wider opening, which seemed to conduct to some abandoned ruins, although clearly made by humans. Our hero decided to investigate, and there he recognised some flourishing, apparently sacred female figures that even I, a master in arts and traditions, wouldn’t be able to describe effectively. After all, Geralt never was a truly devote man, and they say he also risked to offend Freya’s high priestess on the Skellige Islands, shortly afterwards; but that story belongs to another book of ballads. What really matters is that those statues looked old to say the least, and they didn’t have much richness around anymore, apart from some anonymous and empty chest. Geralt, impatient and tired, hoped he could find the treasure chest of the School of the Cat exactly in that strange, ancient-looking shrine; you can imagine his disappointment, when he found out that those chests didn’t have anything but some sort of rotten food and even less valuable junk!

“But our witcher never was a man to spit in the face of traditions, unless those same traditions threatened to stab him with a pitchfork. For that reason, he decided to light up just a few candles at the base of the statues, with one of his many witcher magic signs; then, he gazed at the view behind his back, beyond a decorated stone balcony, and went back into the cave, resuming his climb towards the summit. The sun was just starting to sink at the horizon.

Chapter III – The Draconid’s Nest

“Our courageous Geralt had to stop for a moment, when he realised he underestimated the enemy he thought he would face. Once on the summit, the witcher noticed that he probably wasn’t prepared for such a fight: in front of him, two Wyvern nests kept on unleashing skinny and starved draconids, and Geralt was forced to fight even four dragons at once! But, you know, witchers are experts when it comes to monstruous creatures, and our hero didn’t lose his temper: in a few instants, he drenched his sword in a special Draconid Oil, he watered his throat with an antidote to prevent even the strongest poisons (I swear on Melitele’s name, he told me the name but I can’t seem to recall; a golden potion, anyway), and he threw himself at the fearsome creatures, spinning tirelessly and inflicting the most elegant cleaves a man ever saw. They say witnessing a witcher in battle is like watching a deadly dance; and I, who witnessed personally Master Geralt’s performance in many fights, can most definitely confirm that statement. The sun, on the horizon, was starting to dye the heavens in a golden dusk light, but our hero knew that there were still a few hours until darkness was complete; he kept on striking the dreadful creatures with merciless bravery, until the wiverns collapsed, dead, on the ground, one after the other. And leaving their nests completely unattended.

“At this point, dear reader, it is mandatory to make a due interruption to the story. I don’t know myself what exactly my friend could have thought at that point, and he refused to elaborate his mental processes when I asked. It is likely that tiredness (which, I remind you, can hit even the tireless body of a witcher) might have messed with our hero’s intellectual capacity, for he, without a second thought, pulled out a couple of bombs from his sack, lighted them up, and threw them into the wyvern’s nests to clear them of all the monsters. When it comes to annoying a couple of Drowners or Nekkers, the issue might not be as big as it sounds, especially for a skilled witcher; but you keep these words in mind: it is never a good idea to provoke a wyvern in its nest. Master Geralt had to understand such truth at his own expenses.

“After throwing the bombs inside the nests, our hero breathed a sigh of relief while gazing at the horizon. He dried his forehead from cold sweat: the fight had not been easy, but he managed to succeed like every time. From the top of the mountain, the creased oceans were taking up most of the view until the edge of the world, and a few golden sunbeams had already started to invade the sky, giving a sweet beginning to the first hours of sundown. Nearby, a few menacing clouds were uncharging their electricity around Oxenfurt; to be fair, dear reader, a part of me wishes I could be with Geralt, that afternoon, to admire the splendid view from the top of the mountain. But our good witcher didn’t have the time to breathe in all that beauty, which extended in front of him as far as the eye could see; a high-pitched call, strident and chilling, forced him to turn towards the cave, as the ground all around him started to shake under his feet.

Chapter IV – The Royal Wyvern

“Geralt of Rivia saw the Royal Wyvern in all its pride, magnificent in front of him, as big as a laundress from Velen and much more threatening than a werewolf. According to my witcher friend’s tale, that wyvern was incredibly ancient and chubby, and her age (yes – she was a female) allowed her to develop some kind of human slyness: rather than settling with sheep and small animals like her kind, that creature had learned to assault traders and wagons around Oxenfurt, and she was therefore quite resistant and well-fed under any aspect. Standing on the top of the mount, just above the cave’s exit, that frightening winged creature towered over Geralt, who already felt the mild warmth of the ebbing sun behind his back. All around the witcher was a ground golden with dusk light, and that fearsome giant wyvern was already looking like one of the most dangerous monsters our Geralt had ever fought. Far away, the witcher could hear the rumble of thunders near Oxenfurt, a quiet town living its day like any other, unaware of what was about to happen on its mountains.

“Then, Geralt slowly drew out his silver sword, still dripping some of the extraordinary oil he used shortly before. The witcher did nothing but taunt at the monster, by shouting a simple word while roteating his sword:

«Come on!»

“Immediately, the wyvern threw herself at her prey with a strong and high-pitched scream, and stretching her claws towards our hero. To counter the incoming attack, the witcher’s feline reflexes imposed him to extract his crossbow and unleash a dart right in the creature’s face, which instantly fell stunned to the ground; but the fight had just started, and our hero knew it would be a long one. Geralt striked a lunge towards the Royal Wyvern, slumped over the ground in that weird natural arena en plein air; the monster shook instantly and counter-attacked with her claws and stinger, as the witcher kept rolling and dodging her blows almost naturally, just as trained by School of the Wolf in Kaer Morhen. And the great Dandelion saw many men fight, in the course of his life; I can assure you, dear reader, that nobody can fight a creature with the surgical precision of Geralt of Rivia.

“Behind our witcher, thunders couldn’t stop lighting up the sky, and the sundown had brought even warmer lights on the battlefield, reflecting upon the stains of blood of the terrible winged monster. The blows of the sword teared the hard wyvern skin apart, and they say that, that day, the screech of silver could be heard up until the docks of Novigrad. Between far lightnings and dusk light, dragon bites and witcher counter-attacks, the fight kept on endlessly. When my friend Geralt told me about that extraordinary battle on the top of the mountain, the tale was so suggestive I couldn’t help but picking up a pen and writing something in his honour. My “The Last Call of the Wyvern” ballad became one of the most celebrated ballads in all Oxenfurt, and it was enough to let chant the name of Geralt of Rivia at least for the following lustrum. But, since you came so far, my dear reader, I think it is my duty to share with you a part of that ballad, still sung today in some taverns across the Region. Never was the written word, as noble as it can be, able to replicate the beauty of a rhimed song; but, as you read, try to imagine a lute accompaniment, and a dulcet voice to follow the rhythm of the verses.

Thou listen to me, all around the fountain,
The witcher stood up, on top of the mountain,
His sword dipped in gold, the dusk all behind,
The dragon dove down, but his courage would find.

A strike, then two, then the dragon is down,
The witcher, unharmed, wears a victorious crown,
From claws, fangs and poison, the traders were freed,
Our hero climbed down, and his Path could proceed.

Now I, Dandelion, the great storyteller,
Of Geralt shall speak, till the next night draws near,
A warrior with no vice, nor flaws, and no fear,
Let’s gather together, and for him we shall cheer!

“When the fight was over, for it is custom among witchers to obtain some coins from their preys, our hero beheaded the Royal Wyvern to turn her in to the nearest village, and demand for a reward. Surprisingly enough, dear reader, he didn’t need to go far: a couple of refugees, who climbed the mountain following the wyvern’s calls, met our hero just before he stepped back into the cave, and they informed him of a gigantic winged beast that had been assaulting trading routes for weeks. When the two saw the head of the draconid in the witcher’s hands, they thanked him so profusely, that our Geralt almost felt no need to ask for crowns, that day. Almost, indeed: a few seconds later, Geralt handed the head of the Royal Wyvern to the two peasants, and demanded their gold-filled purses as a reward. Although the two of them went away scoffing, the men were definitely happy to see that the witcher had freed them from the monstrous beast.

“The tension of the fight almost made our witcher forget the real reason why he stepped into the cave; once at the base of the mountain, though, his fine senses allowed him to notice a big, adorned chest, hidden in the shadows of the cave. Inside, Geralt found the Cat equipment he had looked for so long; then, he cursed, he mounted on Roach, and he turned away, with a rare smile on his lips.

“And so, if this story has taught us anything, it is that Wyverns are ferocious, tremendous and merciless monsters, far from any kind of redemption; but there’s no Royal Wyvern dangerous enough to discourage the legendary witcher Geralt of Rivia, the greatest monster hunter ever existed, and a living example for whoever might want to prove himself. Then, dear reader, here’s my advice: respect the witcher and pay him the due honours, if you’ll ever be lucky enough to meet him. I, Dandelion, the greatest troubadour of the Northern Kingdoms and the whole Continent, am well aware of what means to be a friend of Geralt of Rivia. And I assure you that ever, for no reason, would I love to be his enemy.”

Copyright © 2018, Anthony Wolf – All Rights Reserved

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