DISCLAIMER: This The Witcher recap contains more SPOILERS than Princess Pavetta has suitors. Continue reading with caution: you have been warned!
Ciri (Freya Allan) continues following the whispers until she reaches the heart of the forest. The overcast, snowy forest is suddenly replaced with sunny, lush greenery. Ciri finds herself surrounded by wild-looking, Elder-speaking female warriors. Queen Eithne (Josette Simon) tells “Fiona” that she is in Brokilon Forest and to come with them.
Elsewhere at a snowy inn, a bloodied man tells of a selkiemore that terrorized a village by a frozen lake. They hired Geralt to kill it, but the selkiemore swallowed the witcher whole! Jaskier (Joey Batey), who is writing the whole thing down, exclaims how great this story is! (Geralt is usually stingy with details.) The man claims that Geralt is dead, but Jaskier is sure that Geralt is fine. Sure enough, Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) enters the inn, covered in selkiemore guts. As the man pays Geralt, Jaskier leads the inn in singing “Toss A Coin To Your Witcher”.
Jaskier takes the opportunity to call in Geralt’s debt for Jaskier making the White Wolf famous. Rather than ask for 10% of Geralt’s coin, Jaskier offers a night of service full of a cornucopia of earthly delights: the greatest masters of the culinary arts crafting morsels worthy of the gods, maidens that would make the Sun itself blush with a single…and, Geralt’s already walked away. Short version: Jaskier wants a tiny favor in exchange for food, women, and wine.
As Geralt washes off the stink of selkiemore guts, Jaskier explains that he needs his friend to be a bodyguard while he performs at the betrothal for the daughter of the Queen of Cintra. Geralt states that he and Jaskier are not friends, and Geralt has no intention of killing anyone over the “petty squabbles of men”. Though Jaskier accurately points out that Geralt does choose to get involved all the time.
Jaskier and Geralt arrive at the betrothal banquet, with Geralt dressed like “a sad silk trader”, as the Skelliger druid Mousesack (Adam Levy) puts it. The banquet is expected to go all night, with suitors all vying for the hand of Princess Pavetta (Gaia Mondadori) in marriage and a chance to become king of the most powerful army in the Northern Realms. Mousesack reveals that the banquet is mostly for show: Queen Calanthe has already secretly arranged with Eist Tuirseach (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson) for Pavetta to be married to his nephew Crach an Craite (Blair Kincaid). Calanthe and Eist are more attracted to each other, but Calanthe is determined not to live in a husband’s shadow again, like she did under her husband King Roegner of Ebbing.
Geralt quickly intervenes when a dwarven lord threatens Jaskier over “a scoundrel I once saw fleeing my wife’s chambers”. Geralt manages to convince the lord that Jaskier is a eunuch, to which a frustrated Jaskier complains about how his “courtly reputation” is now ruined. Geralt replies that he just saved Jaskier’s life, fulfilling his end of the bargain. “You’re on your own from here,” Geralt smirks, “Try not to get any daggers in your back before dawn.”
Just then, Queen Calanthe (Jodhi May) arrives bloody and in full armor, having just returned from putting down a rebellion in southern Cintra. The relationship between Calanthe and Pavetta is strained. Calanthe demands that Pavetta not cry and be “hysterical”, and that it will all be over soon. Pavetta is disgusted with Calanthe’s slaughter of starving serfs and defiant elves. Pavetta wishes she could choose who she wanted to marry instead of being forced to marry Crach an Craite, to which Calanthe claims she can have whoever she wants *after* she is married.
Ciri is interrogated by Eithne on how she came to Brokilon Forest? Eithne reveals that she and her people are dryads. They and their forest is the last of their kind since the monsters and humans that came with the Conjunction of the Spheres. Ciri then sees Dara (Wilson Radjou-Pujalte), whose wound is being treated with the Waters of Brokilon. All visitors to the forest must drink the Waters. If they are pure of heart and intent, they survive. Over time, the Waters of Brokilon makes the drinker forget their memories, but also helps lessen the suffering they have endured in their life.
In Cintra, Crach an Craite begins to fight with another banquet guest over the number of stingers that a manticore has. The rival lord says its two, but Crach says its five. Calanthe asks Geralt to settle the dispute and declare who is correct, to which Geralt answers honestly: neither (a manticore only has one tail stinger). With a warning glance from Jaskier, Geralt appeases that the two lords likely encountered rare, mutant subspecies of manticore. Calanthe asks Geralt to recount his slaying of the elves at the Edge of the World. Geralt again answers honestly: there was no slaying. The elves had defeated Geralt, and then Filavandrel let him go. As Geralt continues to insult the banquet guests, Eist manages to diffuse the situation by praising Calanthe’s combat prowess. Impressed by Geralt, Calanthe offers Geralt the seat of honor at her right side, and leaves to change out of her armor.
In Brokilon Forest, Ciri and Dara wait to be tested by the Waters. Ciri confides in Dara that the Black Knight is after her and she is actually Princess Cirilla. Dara is shocked, and exclaims that Queen Calanthe killed his entire family after Filavandrel’s Uprising. Ciri insists that Dara is wrong…her grandmother would never do something like that. Dara reveals how the Cintran soldiers laughed as they killed and raped the elves. Dara only survived because he his. Ciri doesn’t know what to say. “Say nothing,” Dara sighs, “They’re gone now.” Dara thinks they should stay in Brokilon and drink the Waters to forget. Ciri isn’t so sure: she was told by her grandmother to find Geralt of Rivia. Dara suggests that maybe Ciri should start thinking for herself?
In Cintra, both Calanthe and Geralt wish that they were still in armor. Calanthe offers to hire Geralt should the feast get out-of-hand at any point, but Geralt insists that he will not get involved.
On the road to Lyria, Yennefer of Vengerburg (Anya Chalotra) escorts Queen Kalis of Lyria (Isobel Laidler) and her infant daughter. Kalis envies Yennefer’s position as a court mage and that she’s not just “another womb” to a monarch. Yennefer shares her frustration that she traded everything to become the greatest mage to ever grace a royal court…and instead has spent thirty years cleaning up King Virfuril’s stupid political messes. Kalis insists she has it far worse. “People look at you for who you are,” Kalis explains, “Not for what you can give them.”
Suddenly, a blade cuts into the carriage. The Lyrian guards scream as they are cut down by someone or something. More blades slice into the carriage. Yennefer tries to get a look at their attackers, but she is hit by a spray of blood as Kalis and her baby continue to cry. As they exit the carriage, a lone surviving guard points to their attacker: a mysterious hooded man with a monstrous “roach-hound”. Yennefer quickly portals the three of them away into the middle of a vast desert. Yennefer realizes that the man is a mage assassin, sent to kill Queen Kalis. Apparently, the King of Lyria is done waiting for Kalis to give him a male heir.
The assassin arrives again, and the three are forced to flee. Yennefer and Kalis make it through the portal, but the Lyrian guard is killed by the roach-hound. Yennefer realizes that Kalis is being tracked, and the two barely escape the roach-hound through another portal. Seeing an exhausted Yennefer, Kalis tells the “useless witch” to get up. When the assassin arrives again, Yennefer portals away…leaving Kalis and her baby behind.
In Cintra, Queen Calanthe complains about the “male tradition” of betrothal feasts and wonders why she doesn’t just tell everyone who Pavetta is going to marry or even just let Pavetta decide for herself. Geralt observes that Calanthe thrives on that same male tradition. Geralt asks Calanthe why she risks her life on the battlefield when she can just order her troops from the throne? Calanthe tells the witcher that there is a simplicity in killing monsters.
Just as Crach is about to present himself to Pavetta and Calanthe, a helmeted knight bursts into the banquet hall. He apologizes for the late intrusion and attacking her guards, and presents himself before Pavetta as “Lord Urcheon of Erlenwald” (Bart Edwards). Queen Calanthe is insulted that a knight of no renown from a backwater hamlet like Erlenwald would dare barge into her court, and without showing his face. Lord Urcheon claims that a knight’s oath prevents him from revealing his face until the twelfth bell of midnight. Eist steps forward and removes the knight’s helm, revealing Lord Urcheon to be…well, an urcheon. That is, a humanoid hedgehog. Queen Calanthe immediately orders Geralt to kill “it”, but Geralt flatly refuses and states that the knight has been cursed. Calanthe orders her knights to slay the “beast”.
Urcheon insists that Pavetta is rightly his to claim, by the ancient Law of Surprise. For a while, Urcheon manages to hold his own against the Cintran guards, but there are too many and Urcheon is eventually knocked down. It is only the timely intervention of Geralt that saves Urcheon from being executed. Calanthe screams for her guards to kill them both. The other suitors attempt to join the fight, but Eist insists that the Law of Surprise has been called. Anyone who wishes to kill Urcheon will have to kill Eist first. The Skelligers join the fight to defend Eist against the other guests. As the banquet hall devolves into a battlefield, Queen Calanthe grabs a sword and intervenes to defend Eist. Calanthe crosses swords with Geralt and demands that the fighting stop.
Abandoned on the mountainside, Queen Kalis begs for her life and that she can give the King of Lyria a boy. She offers up her baby as a sacrifice, but the assassin kills Kalis and sends his roach-hound at the baby. The baby is saved by Yennefer, who creates another portal while fighting off the assassin. Yennefer grabs the baby and flees through the portal. They arrive in the middle of the surf on a beach. As Yennefer crawls to shore, she realizes that the baby has gone pale and has stopped breathing. She tries to revive the girl with healing magic, but it’s too late: the baby is dead.
In Cintra, Pavetta runs down and embraces Urcheon. She calls him “Duny”, and asks why he didn’t stay away like she told him? Duny tells Queen Calanthe that he was cursed as a boy and his life was misery until he saved her husband King Roegner. As tradition, Duny chose the Law of Surprise as payment: “whatever windfall he came home to find”. When King Roegner returned to Cintra, he found his wife had given birth to a daughter. Geralt realizes that Calanthe knew Duny would come, and that’s why she kept pushing the witcher to kill him. Calanthe disparages Pavetta for carousing with “the beast who swindled your stupid father”.
Eist defends Duny. The Law of Surprise is as old as humanity: an honest gamble as likely to be rewarded with an unusually productive harvest as a newborn puppy. Eist insists that Duny could not have known about Calanthe’s pregnancy, and thus Pavetta is a “child of surprise”. Initially, Duny had planned to abandon claiming the Law of Surprise after learning Roegner had a child. After all, what woman could accept Duny as he looked? But a year ago, Duny and Pavetta met by chance and fell in love with each other. Both Eist and Mousesack advise Calanthe to honor destiny’s wish…or else risk unleashing destiny’s wrath upon the whole world.
Calanthe refuses to honor a law made by “men who have never born a child”. Calanthe asks Geralt if he fears destiny? Geralt claims that destiny is nothing more than a belief that there’s an order to the chaos of the world. But Geralt agrees that a promise made must be honored…whether made by a commoner or a queen. Pavetta states that she loves Duny and she will marry him. Calanthe hands Eist her sword and appears to agree to Duny’s proposal. But she draws her dagger and tries to kill Duny.
Pavetta screams and reveals her powers. The banquet hall turns into a chaotic maelstrom, and at the eye of the storm is Pavetta (speaking Elder) and Duny. It is only through the magical efforts of Geralt and Mousesack that they are able to stop Pavetta from destroying the whole castle and everyone inside. As the banquet guests pick themselves up, Eist asks Calanthe if she believes in destiny now? Calanthe approaches Pavetta and expresses her shock that Pavetta inherited her grandmother’s “gift”. Calanthe declares that destiny has spoken and Pavetta will marry “Lord Urcheon”. Eist declares that anyone who challenges the union will face not only Cintra, but also the sea-hounds of Skellige. Eist proposes marriage to Calanthe for a fourth and final time, and Calanthe declares that there will be two weddings tonight.
In Brokilon, Ciri awakes from a nightmare about the Slaughter of Cintra. Dara drank the Waters of Brokilon and passed the test. However, when Ciri drinks, nothing happens. Queen Eithne is concerned, but simply decides that a more potent test is needed.
At the beach, Yennefer apologizes to Kalis’s daughter for being unable to save her. She tells the baby that she wouldn’t have had much of a life anyways: parents responsible for her death, fair-weather friends, and disappointing lovers. More importantly, she was a girl. Yennefer feels that women are nothing more than vessels for others to take and take from until a girl is left empty and alone. Yennefer buries the baby in the beach.
In Cintra, Queen Calanthe marries Duny and Princess Pavetta. With Calanthe’s blessing and Pavetta’s kiss, Duny finds himself human once again: the curse has been lifted. The two newlyweds ecstatically kiss and embrace. Jaskier states that this will be his greatest ballad yet. “If you’re alive in the morning,” Geralt cautions. Before he can leave, Duny insists on repaying Geralt in some way for saving his life. Geralt wants nothing, but Duny insists that the life debt be paid. Geralt decides to claim the Law of Surprise as Duny did: “give me that which you already have, but do not know”. A horrified Calanthe exclaims if Geralt understands what he just did? Geralt insists that if he ever returns to Cintra, it will be to kill a monster. Not lay claim to a crop or a pup…which is when Pavetta vomits. Everyone realizes that Pavetta is pregnant. Geralt swears and walks away.
Mousesack follows Geralt and shares his intention to help Pavetta control her immense primal power. Mousesack encourages Geralt to stay as well, but Geralt refuses to change his way of life. Mousesack insists that Geralt is now bound to the child, whether he likes it or not. Geralt can’t outrun destiny just because he’s terrified of it. If Geralt leaves without claiming his extraordinary child surprise, he will surely unleash calamity upon the world.
Later in Cintra (after said calamity…the “Slaughter of Cintra”), Fringilla Vigo (Mimi Ndiweni) and other Nilfgaardian mages recover the corpse of Queen Calanthe. Using dark magic (and sacrificing one of her acolytes), Fringilla reveals to the Black Knight (Eamon Farren) that Ciri is in Brokilon Forest. A Nilfgaardian lieutenant suggests taking the forest with an army of ten-to-twelve-thousand men. But the Black Knight states that Brokilon can’t be taken with armies. As he rides away, Mousesack is chained to his saddle. Mousesack quickly takes and hides the queen’s sash before he is dragged off.
In Brokilon, Ciri is made to drink the sap of Shan-Kayan: the tree that is the source of the Waters of Brokilon. Ciri drinks the sap, and finds herself in an otherworldly desert…near a ghostly tree. The spirit of Shan-Kayan asks, “What are you, child?”
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