Short Story – A Witcher’s Ballad
The day had finally come. For over a year I’ve been playing “The Witcher 3 – Wild Hunt” and read the associated books. After countless replays of the main storyline, I managed to finish the expansions as well. Now I was ready to face the real world and become a Witcher myself. When I received my medallion of the School of the Wolf from the institute at Kaer Morhen, I made certain to wear the appropriate armor before venturing out, looking for contracts to free the people of all sorts of vile creatures.
Just because I didn’t have the supernatural mutations, life-long training, reflexes, cat-like pupils, durability, stamina, experience, and impeccable abdominal muscles of a Witcher, didn’t mean that I wasn’t qualified for the job.
This was going to be my new source of income. I began dreaming of the sums of gold coins I would demand, certain of the fact that I would be the only expert Witcher in the city. But dreaming was for Oneiromancers. I had to go and kill monsters.
Like any Witcher that traveled from town to town on horseback, I too needed a means of transportation allowing me to reach all the poor peasants plagued by demonic villains. I grabbed my gear and whistled for my Honda Civic. The black stallion appeared in its usual parking spot, so I still had to walk quite a bit to get there. First thing on my to-do list when I jumped in the saddle was to prepare the right mood for adventure and battle. The original soundtrack of “The Witcher 3” would do the trick.
The Witcher, the Witcher, fear his sword and his might.
The dawn of a hero who is ready to fight.
He will do it for justice, but he wants to get paid,
cause the increase of rent is a terrible fate.
I got my first taste of what it was like to be a Witcher. Normal humans always disliked the mutated killers and treated them like outcasts. This happened to me when I asked around the fishermen’s wharf if anyone needed me to slice ‘n’ dice some Drowners. People just ignored me and tried hard to avoid my gaze. I realized they weren’t convinced in my ability to slay abominable beings. So I set out to a nearby forest. The woods were always home to terrible things and that was my chance to return with a trophy to show off my prowess. Even in the monster killing business one seemed to be required some proof of experience before applying for jobs. I practiced my graveling voice as I walked through the forest when I stumbled upon a notice board. These were usually filled with demands for help, although it seemed that this particular board only had information about the flora and fauna of the woods. With no direct demand for paid assistance, I accepted that I would have to find a monster and kill it for free to improve my reputation before I would eventually drown in money.
The Witcher, the Witcher, beer and Wi-Fi ain’t cheap.
So he treads through the woods like a strange looking creep.
In search of a monster that gives peasants the chills,
he plans to defeat it with his fictional skills.
Whoever said “money doesn’t grow on trees” never played a Witcher video game: I managed to find a coin purse hidden in a tree stump. With that, the trip had already proven to be lucrative and my motivation to find and kill a villainous beast increased.
After I followed a man-made path I found my first clue of monstrous activity: A tall tree ripped off its roots and knocked over. This had to be the work of a giant beast. I investigated the tree and found huge claw marks along its bark. While the claws could belong to a Leshen, these forest dwelling creatures weren’t big enough to cause that much damage. Besides, they were quite fond of trees and wouldn’t destroy them like this. The only creature I could think of that could perform such a feat would be a Fiend.
Fiends were giant monsters that looked like a mix of an elk and that intimidating buff dude at the gym. While they had claws on their front paws, their back legs resembled goat-like hoofs. They were massive in size but their strength and spiky antlers weren’t the only dangerous thing about them. Fiends possessed a third eye on their foreheads which they used to hypnotize or paralyze their prospective victims. Defeating such a dangerous beast would look fantastic on my future applications. I set out to track the Fiend using my Witcher senses by slightly squinting when I looked around the forest ground.
The first footprints I found looked nothing like that of a Fiend. These resembled a Draconid’s tracks. I couldn’t be sure if it was a Wyvern or a Forktail, but it didn’t matter. I was looking for a Fiend after all, and that wasn’t the right trail to follow.
Finally I found the tracks I was looking for. Goat-like footprints, but really big ones. Unmistakeably that of a Fiend. Now that I knew that I would find its lair once I followed the tracks, I would have to prepare for the inevitable fight.
A few drops of water sprinkled the ground from above.
“Looks like rain”, I said out loud, practicing my growl.
I had to get ready quickly before the footprints washed away.
The Witcher, the Witcher, he found a monstrous track.
The Fiend he’ll fight now, for the Drake he’ll come back
if someone will pay him a generous fee,
because food is expensive and gas isn’t free.
In order to be victorious in my encounter, I had to read up on Fiends in my bestiary to find possible weaknesses that could give me an advantage. Regrettably, the only useful information I could gather was that their wrath could go so rampant they were able to destroy human settlements and wouldn’t stop until they calmed down. This was helpful in so far that I could demand a large sum for its head. Other than that it provided me with the feeling of terror in approaching this creature. But since I basically got paid by the forest, I felt obligated to do at the very least some work for the money.
I brought a potion with me but couldn’t for the life of me remember if this was the healing kind I should save for when I’m wounded, or an enhancing drink that would improve my skills for the fight. The only way to find out was to down the brew and see what it did. I should remember to label my bottles in any future alchemy productions. This one just tasted like cranberry juice.
Other than potions and reference books, I donned the two weapons every Witcher should have: a steel and a silver sword. Contrary to popular believe things weren’t as black and white like “steel for humans, silver for monsters” since some monsters could be cut down with steel just as efficiently as with silver. Drowners, for example, are just fleshy fish people. There was nothing magical about them and like any other animal they can be taken down with normal weaponry. The danger lied in underestimating their attack patterns and ambush techniques, which is why it was still recommended to call in a professional. The thought of it brought up the resentment of those fishermen towards my humble offers to rid the harbour of any possible Drowner.
“Just wait until they see a Fiend’s head mounted on my Honda’s hood”, I mumbled to myself.
I followed the trail of oversized goat steps and sensed I was coming closer to the monster’s lair. An earth shattering noise made me draw my silver blade. That was definitely not the wind howling. I searched the surrounding area, and then I saw the beast appear atop of a hill. The mighty monster seemed to be searching for something. Did it already detect my presence? Maybe it was my scent that drew it out of hiding.
The Witcher, the Witcher, he found what he sought
and showed off the shiny new knife that he bought.
The armor and weapons and books he obtained
were not cheap at all and better not get stained.
When the Fiend and I locked eyes, I knew I only had a moment to react. Quickly, I ran up the hill to erase its advantage of a higher ground. Now it was time to face the creature head-on.
The beast was intimidating and charged at me with its antlers. I dodged out of the way but the Fiend turned around quickly. It swiped at me with its ferocious claws. I couldn’t get close enough to counter attack.
“Damn, you’re ugly”, I said, using everything I got in my throat to mimic a manly graveling voice. “How do you like that silver?”
I swung at the Fiend but it jumped out of reach. I knew silver was the right choice for this beast. It was categorized as a relict, meaning there was no way to be sure what type of creature the Fiend was. The only thing we knew for certain was that these beings existed a long time before us. Such a powerful beast needed to be attacked with the silver sword to ensure success. But in order to do that, I had to get closer.
The Fiend’s third eye bulged out of its snout. It was a disgusting reminder of its hypnotic powers which the monster had not attempted to use yet. That gave me an idea. As a Witcher, I too had a spell that could temporarily mind-fuck an opponent.
I kept the blade in my right hand, ready to strike, and formed the Axii sign with my left.
Once the Fiend stared at it and followed my hand’s motion, I could tell that it got stunned by the magic. I saw an opening for an attack, and struck at the monster with a mighty swing. But the blade stopped short of the monsters neck when I saw the look in its eyes.
The Witcher, the Witcher, the slayer of none
could not get himself to kill just for fun.
He talked to the Fiend and said “sorry for that”.
Without compensation he won’t risk his butt.
The Fiend and I had a conversation and it turned out to be a pretty chill dude, so I decided to offer it a place to stay. After all, it was the humans that invaded its territory and created hiking trails and tourist attractions all throughout its living room. I’d be grumpy, too.
Some might say that a Witcher who won’t kill a monster isn’t worth his coin, but sometimes you have to find other means to solve a problem. In this case, the Fiend won’t rampage through the city if it has a comfortable place to live. Besides, I needed a roommate to help me with the bills.
The Witcher, the Witcher, he said it before
if he won’t get payment, he will not get sore.
Though he had obtained a Fiend as a friend,
A good enough plot twist for this ballad to end.
Art and photo credit: Aisha Boucher