The Common Tongue / Writing & Dungeon Mastery Tip

For fantasy writers and D&D dungeon masters alike having a "common tongue" language is a bit of lazy storytelling just so the person telling the story doesn't have to worry about different languages regularly.

However you may have noticed that when reading books by professional writers they put more thought into how they present languages, possibly even having characters speaking in different languages in order to relay secrets.

For example Tolkien used a common tongue in his works, but he also created multiple languages to fulfill his needs. He also understood that languages evolve and change over time. He created 15 different dialects of elvish, as well as languages for the orcs, ents, hobbits, and more, and his creation of the languages influenced place names, the names of characters, and how he presented languages.

In the real world English is currently the equivalent of the common tongue on the global scale. Depending upon what part of the world a person lived in, and at what point in history, the common tongue would have been something different however. Eg. French, German, or Latin at varying points would have been considered a common tongue in Europe. In the future it is conceivable that English will fade in popularity and a language like Chinese (specifically Putonghua, aka Mandarin) will become popular in the future.

However as you've probably guessed not everyone in Europe spoke Latin, despite the Romans doing their utmost to conquer everyone. If someone was educated or a merchant there was a good chance they also spoke Latin, but the craftsmen or the peasantry would barely speak a word of the language beyond ita vero et minime (yes and no).

Granted, if you're writing fantasy then some readers won't particularly care if you skip such realisms, but if you're writing historical fiction then you're going to want to be as accurate as possible.

It really depends on how much realism you want in your story.

Here's a few questions to think about to improve realism:

1. What is the common tongue called?

Eg. In Korovia then Korovian is the common tongue in that part of my world. But if a person travels to Al-Kazar or the Azagolian Empire then Al-Kazarian or Azageul is the common tongue in those regions.

2. Are there regional languages or older languages which are spoken more often in certain areas?

Eg. In Korovia the region is Slavic themed, but some people still speak Middle Korovian, Old Korovian or even Ancient Korovian. Thus I like to borrow bits from languages like Romanian and Russian.

3. Are the towns or villages based on words from the language, or are they based on words from a different language?

Eg. When naming a number of the towns and villages of Korovia I opened a map of Romania many years ago and then I browsed the names of villages, creating new names which sounded similar to existing places.

4. Does magic use a specific language?

Eg. In Korovia, yes. This is where I like to borrow words from Esperanto. Esperanto is a made up language created by a Polish academic in 1887. It is mostly spoken by language scholars, but for my purposes it makes for a good "language of magic".

Note - J. K. Rowling did something similar for magic in her Harry Potter series. She used Latin for all of the magical words.

5. Do you have a map showing where different languages are spoken?

Something to consider doing. Very useful.

6. Are there any hybrid languages?

Hybrid languages are usually spoken near the borders between major countries, but they can also happen when two cultures are mixed over a long period.

Eg. Yiddish is a hybrid of German and Hebrew. Similarly Alsatian is a language spoken mostly in eastern France that is a mixture of French, German and even Yiddish. Likewise in modern times Denglisch is a mixture of Deutsch and English, the result of so many English speakers living in Germany these days.

Note - If you watch the film Waterworld you will note that the characters refer to one language they encounter as Portugreek, which is apparently a hybrid of Greek and Portuguese.

7. What are the languages actually called in their native tongue?

Eg. Germans don't actually speak "German", they speak Deutsch. Russians speak Russkiy. The Chinese actually speak over 300 languages native to China, Putonghua (Mandarin) is just the official state language, but depending upon the region a person is in there are different dominant languages.

8. Does each language have a traditional greeting or way of saying goodbye?

Useful to use these.

Eg. In Forgotten Realms the common greeting is "Well met", but that wouldn't necessarily be the only way of saying hello and other greetings might be more popular in specific regions.

9. Is there more than one common tongue in your world?

When cultures collide it might make sense to just call the two languages by their names, as opposed to calling both of them "common".

10. Do you have a separate alphabet for one or more languages?

Below... the Dwarven alphabet created by Tolkien.

Final Thoughts

Not all writers (or Dungeon Masters for playing Dungeons & Dragons) are into this level of realism within their writing, but for those that are the extra details and realism helps to immerse the reader (and players) within the fantasy world. Or in the case of historical fiction, within a time and place.

For example if you're writing a book set in the Holy Roman Empire the people there don't speak English obviously, and they don't speak Latin either. They're speaking German (Deutsch). Thus they wouldn't use words like "Hello!" they would say things like "Good day!" instead because "Guten Tag!" is the standard greeting in German. In France you could get away with Hello because the French "Allo" is very similar, but honestly you could just use Allo instead of Hello anyway and the readers will quickly guess the meaning based on context even with zero knowledge of French.

25% Off Fantasy Short Story Editing for December 2020


Are you a fantasy writer and you're trying to polish your work for publication?

You're going to need an editor.

Proofreading and editing your own work is not enough. You need someone who can fix the mistakes you made like:

  • Spelling & Typos
  • Grammar
  • Sentence Structure
  • Flow & Tone
  • Reader Friendliness
  • Redundancies
  • Inconsistencies
  • Unbelievable Issues (unless you want it to be unbelievable, of course)

My Introductory Editing Rate is 2 cents per word, or $100 USD for 5000 words.

This allows me to gauge how 'riddled with mistakes' your work is, and determine how much time is required to edit your work. Based upon that I can then charge you an amount consistent with my normal editing rate of $35 USD per hour.

Contact to inquire about editing the first 5000 words of your story. Payments are made via PayPal or Interac E-Transfer.

Short Story Discount Rate

During the month of December I am also offering a "Short Story Discount Rate" of 1.5 cents per word, which means you save 25% compared to my regular rates.

Short Stories: 1,500 - 7,500 words = $22.50 to $112.50.

Contact to inquire about editing your short story.

Regular Rates*

* Actual rate may vary depending upon how 'riddled with mistakes' your work is. It could be more/less depending on a variety of factors like whether you self-edited and used spellcheck/grammar check before sending it to your editor.

  • Short Stories: 1,500 - 7,500 words = $30 to $150.
  • Novelettes: 7,500 - 17,500 = $150 to $350.
  • Novellas: 17,500 - 40,000 = $350 to $800.
  • Novels: 40,000+ words = $800+

So for example if you have a 100,000 word novel that you need edited then it will cost you $2000.

Contact to inquire about editing the first 5000 words of your short story, novelette, novella or novel.


What About Other Genres?

Yeah, so here's the thing. I have reached the point in my editing career where I want to focus on a single genre.

So yes, I am really do want to focus solely on editing fantasy, but with a few small exceptions:

#1. Historical Fiction. Basically like fantasy, but minus the magic and the monsters.

#2. Historical Fantasy. Technically counts as Fantasy.

#3. Science Fantasy. Not to be confused with Sci Fi.

#4. Time Travel Fiction. I have a soft spot for this.

Contact to inquire about editing the first 5000 words of your fantasy story. Payments are made via PayPal or Interac E-Transfer.

Will Wattpad put Fantasy Periodicals out of Business?

 Fantasy Periodicals come in a variety of formats:

  • Fantasy Journals
  • Fantasy Magazines
  • Online eZines
  • Themed Anthologies

And then there are the ones that publish fantasy, horror, sci fi and speculative fiction. So you don't to choose "Just Fantasy" if you want to read short stories, novellas and flash fiction from any of those genres. Steam Punk? Steam Punk Fantasy? There's a journal for that.

Below is a list of publishers just for Flash Fiction... The document is organized by which publishers pay the most for Flash Fiction, down to those publishers who just provide a token copy, or is completely unpaid. For writers there is also the matter of word count limits, the typical response times, and whether they allow simultaneous submissions to other periodicals.

There are other categories too. Fantasy Periodicals that publish mostly short stories, and others which also publish novelettes and novellas. So length is another factor for distinguishing between the different periodicals. Whether they actually pay the writer is a completely different topic.

There is one important factor however... It is very difficult for fantasy periodicals to make a profit and be viable commercially. Most of them have readerships in the low thousands.

And then there is fantasy pulp fiction (40,000 to 60,000) words... A short novel effectively.

Herein lies the issue for writers who write pulp fiction. They want to get PAID, ideally at least semi pro (0.01 per word) or pro rate (0.06 per word) for their writing.

If they're writing a 50,000 words short novel then they are expecting to sell the 1-year publishing rights for that pulp fiction novel for $500 to $3000, or more, and their goal is to sell to a fantasy periodical who buys such stories...

Why just the periodical industry?

Because the regular book publishing industry these days gravitates away from publishing short novels, preferring books to be in the 90,000 to 120,000 range. With the exception of YA (Young Adult) fantasy fiction they don't see any benefit to buying and selling books that fall into the pulp fiction range.

Enter online publisher Wattpad, a website/app where readers can read books for free - or buy access to premium books for a price.

Essentially it works a bit like self publishing via Amazon, which is also an option frequently explored by writers who write short stories and novellas.

Wattpad provides free content to over 85 million readers via amateur writers (and professional writers like Margaret Atwood and others who use Wattpad to help market their writing) and consequently there is a huge readership base. People can grow their popularity on Wattpad, and then spin that into book sales on Amazon and in traditional book stores.

At present however there are a few tricks to this...

#1. In order to sell your books on Wattpad (instead of just free) you need to qualify for Wattpad Star status, which means you need to first write at least two finished novels that are over 50k each.

#2. You need to get popular on Wattpad. Easier said than done, although there are guides on How To Get Popular On Wattpad.

#3. Wattpad hasn't yet figured out how to properly monetize short stories. If it is a novel, sure, you can sell it in the Paid Stories categories. They did at one point try giving writers a share of ad revenue, but this plan apparently didn't work properly and was later scrapped in favour of the Premium/Paid Stories system they currently use.

So should you just skip the periodicals industry completely?

Well, hold on a second, because there might be a solution...

Why not do ALL THREE?

Step One, Submit Your Story To Periodicals

Go the normal route and try to get your story into periodicals. Possibly get published and get paid.

Step Two, Self Publish

Publish and sell your work on Amazon and similar self publishing platforms.

Step Three, Wattpad

Put free samples of your writing - especially your shorter bits of fiction - on Wattpad, plus two works that are over 50k in order to try and get Wattpad Star status.

This three step approach means you get the best of all three systems of revenue. It is more work, but it also means your writing is being exposed to a much larger audience of people - and it means you ultimately get paid more and have a greater chance of becoming successful as a writer.

It is also a system I am putting to the test myself, with my own writing. You can find samples of my writing (both short stories and longer works) on Wattpad at My goal during 2021 is to see how many periodicals I can get my fantasy writing into. I have already been publishing nonfiction in magazines for years, so I am overdue to publish fiction writing too.

Now you can follow the steps in order, or you can do a different order or tweak the steps to suit your needs. There is no rules that you have to do everything in that order. However there is a benefit to that particular order, because some periodicals refuse to publish anything that was published elsewhere first (including Amazon and Wattpad). Thus there is a good argument for trying to publish in periodicals first, before publishing in Amazon and Wattpad.

Maybe someday Wattpad will put Fantasy Periodicals out of Business?


Maybe someday.

If they can figure out how to properly monetize short stories, novelettes and novellas.

It could be that they might monetize them in the same way they already monetize novels on their website, and they might simply lower the word count requirements for Premium/Paid Stories.

Or maybe they will figure out a different way of monetizing short stories, like possibly a tiered payment system similar to semi pro and pro rate.

They could even get into the business of buying stories from professional writers, including reprints which is another important factor.

Usually when a writer sells a short story or novella it is the first year publishing rights that gets sold. Buying a reprint of a story that was previously published elsewhere isn't considered to be as valuable.

However Wattpad could buy reprints of popular stories by famous authors, creating a database of premium stories using a system similar to what Netflix does with movies and TV shows.

And it isn't like the market isn't there. All of Wattpad's money comes from two revenue streams: Ad revenue and premium stories. So they are making money off the stories, one way or the other.

What they need to do is to get professional writers (or even semi pro writers) to switch over to Wattpad simply because it pays better.

And if they do that they will put the fantasy periodicals industry out of business. Every writer who normally writes for periodicals will end up switching.

Alternatively there is another way...

Wattpad could buy/acquire companies that publish periodicals, either online or traditional book versions. In doing so they would acquire the publishing rights to any short stories published in the last year and be able to put them on Wattpad.

They could then transition the readers from those periodicals (which are often online already) over to Wattpad by offering them Premium Wattpad accounts at a discounted rate.

The good news is that many of these publishing companies aren't making much of a profit (or are in the red) and would love someone to buy them out at a pittance of the cost. Many of these "companies" are just a few people who aren't even getting paid to work there. Offer the owner enough money and they would probably take it.

Most fantasy periodicals fail and fold within the first five years of operating.

So it wouldn't really take much to put them out of business.

All Wattpad needs is the right payment program that will bring out the pro and semi pro writers.

Treasure Distribution, The Ranked Picking System

One possible way to do Treasure Distribution for Dungeons and Dragons (or Advanced Dungeons and Dragons)...

The Ranked Picking System

Each time we gain treasure the players should rank in order of significance how much they want certain items.

For example let's say we find the following:
  • 1 wand of Burning Hands
  • 1 staff of Light (cleric or druid only)
  • 1 large shield +1
  • 1 potion of Extra Healing
  • 1 suit of plate mail (non magical, dwarven sized)
  • 1 suit of elvish chainmail +1 (human sized)
  • 1 riding horse, complete with saddle and saddlebags/etc
  • evil looking dagger +1, possibly cursed (detects of evil)
  • treasure chest containing over 2000 gold
Each player would then rank how much they want the item: 1, 2, 3, 4, etc... Any time there is an item your PC cannot use you should automatically put NOT INTERESTED when ranking their interest in an item. Ranking an item your character cannot use disqualifies you from getting the item. Everyone is automatically listed for a share of the treasure chest (unless you have a vow of poverty), but this will always be the last thing divided up and is always ranked at the bottom.

So for example Charles (Beldin) would rank the items like so:
  • shield - 1
  • dwarf sized plate mail - 2
  • potion - 3
  • horse - 4
  • human sized elvish chainmail - NOT INTERESTED
  • staff - NOT INTERESTED
  • evil looking dagger, possibly cursed - NOT INTERESTED
  • share of treasure chest - AUTOMATIC

Everyone would rank the items in a similar manner, and starting with the items which have the least number of 1s we then divide up the treasure.

If only 1 person wants the item, they get it automatically. If 2 or more eligible people want it, the players vote to decide who receives it (often with people voting based upon usability).

Before voting each player wanting an item can make a brief argument (30 seconds or less ideally) for why they are deserving of the item.

[Note - Characters do not get a vote. Players do. Effectively each player is in this on behalf of 1 main character.]

Once all the items with ranks of 1 have been divided up then we repeat the process for ranks 2 for any items that have not yet been distributed. Often most of the items will disappear during the distribution of Rank 1 items. However the difference now is that anyone who already received a Rank 1 item is exempted from getting a Rank 2 item - UNLESS there was nobody else interested in the item in the Ranks 2, 3, 4, etc. Thus it is possible for 1 player to receive two items, but only if nobody else actually wants it in the lower rankings. We continue down the ranks, voting and dividing up each item based upon desirability and usability.

The "Share of Treasure Chest" is divided last, but it is also unevenly based upon how many people received a higher ranked item. Anyone who received a Rank 1 item only gets 1/2 share, and anyone who received 2 or more items gets zero share of the treasure chest. Someone who received 0 items during the distribution of other items gets double the share of gold/etc.


If someone received an item, they would only receive a 1/2 share of the gold.
If someone received no items, they would receive a double share of the gold (effectively 4 times what someone would receive if they already received an item).

Ranking Strategically - Someone might look at the value of the gold and decide they're not interested in things like the riding horse and then decide to rank strategically, saying NOT INTERESTED in the horse or similar items, just so they can get a double share of the chest full of gold. Others might look at the horse as being useful and decide it is worth not getting a larger share of the gold.

Cursed Items - If nobody actually wants an item believed to be cursed the party should make an effort to either give it away, use it to bribe someone, deliberately lose it somewhere unlikely to be found, or attempt to destroy it.

Party Funds (Optional)

In order to pay taxes, tolls, food, stays at inns, bribes, repairs, Identifying magical items, etc it is recommended setting aside 1 share of party gold for Party Funds, which can be used to pay miscellaneous things that the party needs. Usually this sum would then be carried by various trustworthy members of the party.


While we're at it, let's quickly discuss a few extra topics that will inevitably come up during games...


Once a person owns an item it is considered theirs and theirs alone, unless they sell the item, trade it, give it away, throw it away, or destroy it. Items cannot be redistributed later if a second treasure is later found.

However if two players agree to trade an item, or one player agrees to sell an item to another for an agreed upon sum of gold and/or items, then this can be done privately (preferably outside of game time).

Players could also decide that they don't need two swords, for example, and then give away an item to another player (or give it to an ally, or henchman/hireling, or even as a bribe to a NPC). What they do with it is their choice and theirs alone.


PCs should be encouraged to write a last will and testament stating who gets their various items if their character should die. It should never be a situation where the party just automatically loots the dead character. The items could end up going to PCs, to NPCs, to be donated to an orphanage, or they might even insist the items are buried with them.


Thievery is certainly a real possibility, but would spell consequences for the thief when eventually caught. PCs who discover a thief might decide to attack them, might choose to punish them in some manner, or might simply refuse to aid the thief thence onwards (eg. leaving them to die). Items stolen once discovered would be returned to the proper owner. A severe and non-violent penalty however would be to take all magical items (or anything else considered valuable) from the thief and give them to the person who had been robbed, who can then use them, or sell/give away items at their leisure.

Missing potions and scrolls. Another problem. Harder to prove who took them and used them. Again, consequences should be swift and severe.

Players should make an effort to record where on their persons (or their horses) they are storing various items of value. Eg. Hiding a potion in their boot. Thus if someone is attempting to rob them they must declare where they are looking and the DM can check with the character sheet to determine where a particular item is hidden.

How to Roll Stats the Old School Way, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons

 Over a decade ago I joined a 1st Edition AD&D game. The game has had its highs and lows, including players moving to other countries, players getting married and having kids (myself included in that category), and we don't play as often as we once did.

The trick about playing 1st Edition AD&D is that it is gritty. It is "Old School". Your characters die frequently. Kind of like watching Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, or similar shows. Characters die. It is just part of the game.

So one workaround for the inevitable character deaths is that DMs will often have players create multiple characters so that in the event that one character dies then they can just immediately play a different one because they have a whole roster of characters to choose from.

In the game I am in what we will do is roll stats for 12 characters all at once.

Like so...

Note - I had some difficulties making the following videos. My camera was running low on hard drive space, so I ended with 4 videos instead of 1 big long video. Also I forgot about the rerolls, so the 4th video is just the rerolls.

So there you go. That is how you roll 12 sets of stats, in order, plus the rerolls.

I admit it takes awhile to do all of those rolls, but you aren't necessarily going to play all 12 characters. You are probably only going to play the characters who can potentially make the characters you WANT to play.

For example, if you're not really into making wizards, then don't play a wizard. Just make all your characters fighters, thieves, clerics, etc, and thus you use the stats which are appropriate for making those characters.

Our DM also allows players to "trade stats" to other players so that they can get stats that make the character they want to play. So even if you failed to roll the necessary stats to play a ranger, maybe you can trade a set of your stats to someone who wants them in exchange for suitable ranger stats.

So far I ended up making a dwarf fighter for the game, but going over the stats I also have ideas for another fighter, a cleric, a wizard and a thief. So I should at least have some backup characters in case my dwarf bites the dust.

I am hoping he doesn't die, obviously, but let's say he falls down and hurts himself (and needs to heal for awhile) then I might need a replacement character while my dwarf rests up.

Cryomancy Spells for 1st/2nd Edition AD&D

Custom Cryomancy Spells

Ice Scimitar (Conjuration)

Range: Touch
Components: V, S
Duration: 4 rounds + 1 round/level
Casting Time: 1
Area of Effect: Special
Saving Throw: None

Also known as Blizzard Scimitar this ancient spell is popular amongst Blizzards (ice wizards) in Korovia and dates back to the early bronze age when the spell was first created, after the First Demon War. The spell conjures a magical scimitar made of para elemental ice (para elemental ice is immune to melting) and imbues the caster temporarily with the proficiency skill to wield it. (And only it. It does not confer the ability to use all scimitars.)

The razor sharp ice scimitar deals 2d4 damage per hit, counts as a magical weapon, and can parry (or be parried) by spells like Flame Blade. It deals a combination of ice and slicing damage, but can also be used to pierce or stab opponents and objects. Creatures composed of fire or mostly of fire take an additional 1d4 cold damage when hit by the ice scimitar.

Someone under the effects of a Resist Cold (or similar protection) suffers 1 point less damage.

If a Blizzard casts this particular spell and has successfully gone through all three transformation rituals to become a full Blizzard then the duration of the spell lasts twice as long.

Unlike many cryomancy spells which often require a bit of ice or snow to cast, this spell does not require any such material components. It is considered by cryomancers and Blizzards to be "a staple spell" which can be useful in a variety of situations.

This particular spell appears in Charles Moffat's March 2020 book: "The Blizzard's Daughter" which is available in paperback and ebook formats.

More Cryomancy Spells

The following spells are from a third party source: Dragon Magazine

Chill (Evocation)
1st  level
Range:  30’
Components:  V S
Duration:  2-5  rounds
Casting  Time:  1
Area  of  Effect:  One  creature
Saving  Throw:  Negates

This spell creates an area of intense cold  around  the  target,  causing  it  to shiver  regardless  of  how  much  clothing or fur is worn. For the duration of the spell,  the  target  moves  at  half-speed  and suffers a -2 penalty on attack and damage  rolls  provided  he  fails  a  saving throw  vs.  magic.  An  interesting  side-effect of the chill spell is that, if it is cast on a target under the effects of a chill metal spell,  the  target  suffers  a  -2  penalty  on  Armor  Class  as  well.  Note  that  a resist  cold  spell  (or  any  other  related  protective  magic)  prevents  this  from working.

Snow  Tread (Alteration,   Enchantment)
2nd  level
Range:  10’
Components:  V,  S,  M
Duration: 1 hour per level
Casting  Time:  5
Area  of  Effect:  One  creature  per  level
Saving  Throw:  None

This  rather  simple  but  valuable  spell allows  those  affected  to  tread  through snow  without  fear  of  slipping  and  at their  normal  movement  rate,  thus  making it possible for the recipients to travel through  terrain  covered  with  ice  and snow  without  being  bogged  down (ignore  modifiers  for  snow  when  determining  the  daily  movement  rate  for  the party, including the approximate time needed to complete the trip). Another benefit  offered  by  this  spell  is  that  it makes  it  harder  for  others  to  follow  the party, for it magically brushes snow into the tracks behind them (-3 penalty on top of all other tracking modifiers). Up  to  five  creatures  can  be  affected by the snow tread spell, plus one additional creature per level of the caster over 5th level (a total of 10, maximum). The  material  component  of  the  spell  is the  snow  or  ice  that  is  to  be  traversed,  in which  the  caster  traces  the  last  words  of the spell (a sure sign that the spell is in effect  is  that  the  traced  words  are  swept away  by  its  magic).

Freezefire (Alteration)
3rd  level
Range:  5’  per  level
Components:  V,  S
Duration:   Special
Casting  Time:  3
Area  of  Effect:  Special
Saving  Throw:  Special

Freezefire  is  an  unusual  spell  that allows the caster to freeze one or more fires  within  range,  whether  natural  or magical,  into  inert  blue  ice,  thus  allowing  it  to  be  touched  or  handled  without harm. Up to one 5’ x 5’ sphere of flame (normal  or  magical)  is  transformed  into blue  ice  for  every  four  experience  levels, and  its  duration  is  permanent  with regard  to  normal  fire.  As  for  magical  fire,it is affected in the following ways: If it hasn’t manifested yet (e.g., a fireball flying through the air), it stays inert for 3-5 rounds   (the   aforementioned   fireball would  fall  to  the  ground  as  a  lifeless lump of ice and sulfur); If the magical fire  is  already  in  effect  (e.g.,  a  wall  of  fire),the spell causes it (or a part of it, if it is too large for the caster to affect completely) to turn to blue ice for the space of 1 round per level of the caster. While frozen,  it  can  be  physically  touched,even  broken,  without  ruining  the  spell. Thus, part of a wall of fire that has been frozen  could  be  broken  down  and  one could  pass  through  unscathed,  while  the frozen  lump  that  was  a  fireball  could  be picked  up  and  thrown  a  few  rounds  later for  the  usual  effects.  It  doesn’t  affect  fire-based  spells  of  5th  level  or  higher,  nor does  it  prevent  a  dragon  or  chimera from breathing flame unless it was cast1  round  previously.  In  that  case,  the creature is allowed a saving throw vs.spell to resist its effects, and, if the save is  failed,  it  is  unable  to  breathe  flame  for 2-3  rounds.

Ice  Claws (Conjuration,  Evocation) 
3rd  level
Range:  0
Components:  V,  S,  M
Duration:  1  round  per  level
Casting  Time:  3
Area  of  Effect:  The  caster
Saving  Throw:  None

Casting this spell brings into being a disembodied  pair  of  icy,  clawed  hands,totally under the control of the caster.The  caster  can  attack  twice  per  round with  these  claws  as  a  fighter  half  his level,  causing  1-3  hp  damage  each  plus an  additional  1-4  hp  cold  damage (those  with  resistance  to  cold  suffer  no additional  damage  from  the  cold).  They can  be  used  to  attack  someone  up  to  30yards away from the caster, and on a natural  roll  of  20  the  claw(s)  have secured a hold on the target, causing automatic  claw  and  cold  damage  every round  thereafter.  The  material  component  of  this  spell  is  a  pair  of  crystal  claws connected to a small brass chain, all of which is worth 5 gp.


Word Counts in Sword & Sorcery

How long are Sword & Sorcery stories? (Related Question: How long should a Sword & Sorcery short story be?)

Well, let's look at some historical examples...

Conan by Robert Howard:

  1. The Phoenix on the Sword: 8,823
  2. The Scarlet Citadel: 15,446
  3. The Tower of the Elephant: 9,726
  4. Black Colossus: 14,346
  5. The Slithering Shadow: 12,897
  6. The Pool of the Black One: 11,252
  7. Rogues in the House: 9,676
  8. The Frost Giant’s Daughter: 3,284
  9. Iron Shadows in the Moon: 12,123
  10. Queen of the Black Coast: 11,334
  11. The Devil in Iron: 12,292
  12. The People of the Black Circle: 30,890
  13. A Witch Shall be Born: 16,337
  14. Jewels of Gwahlur: 17,167
  15. Beyond the Black River: 21,799
  16. Shadows in Zamboula: 12,146
  17. The Hour of the Dragon: 72,375
  18. Red Nails: 30,946

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser by Fritz Leiber:

  1. The Jewels in the Forest: 14,215
  2. The Bleak Shore: 4,272
  3. The Howling Tower: 5,855
  4. The Sunken Land: 6,900
  5. Thieves’ House: 12,235
  6. Adept’s Gambit: 31,901
  7. Claws from the Night: 9,410
  8. The Seven Black Priests: 9,523
  9. Lean Times in Lankhmar: 15,400
  10. When the Sea-King’s away: 9,806
  11. The Cloud of Hate: 4,929
  12. Bazaar of the Bizarre: 9,653
  13. Their Mistress, the Sea: 1,316
  14. The Wrong Beach: 2,267
  15. The Circle Curse: 3,596
  16. The Price of Pain-Ease: 4,650

Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock

  1. Elric of Melnibone: 48,000
  2. The Sailor on the Seas of Fate: 24,000
  3. The Weird of the White Wolf: 39,000
  4. The Vanishing Tower: 48,000
  5. The Bane of the Black Sword: 45,000
  6. Stormbringer: 71,000

The Witcher by Andrzej Sapkowski

  1. The Witcher: 10,213
  2. A Grain of Truth: 10,418
  3. The Lesser Evil: 12,764
  4. A Question of Price: 13,105
  5. The Edge of the World: 14,395
  6. The Last Wish: 18,349
  7. The Voice of Reason: 12,495

Also let's look at some works of H.P. Lovecraft, who wrote in a different subgenre, but also wrote Pulp Fiction short stories, novelettes and novellas:

  1. Dagon: 2,216
  2. The Lurking Fear: 8,164
  3. The Rats in the Walls: 7,974
  4. The Shunned House: 10,742
  5. The Call of Cthulhu: 11,905
  6. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward: 51,112
  7. The Colour out of Space: 12,457
  8. The Dunwhich Horror: 17,524
  9. The Whisperer in Darkness: 26,624
  10. At the Mountains of Madness: 40,881
  11. The Shadow over Innsmouth: 27,026
  12. The Thing on the Doorstep: 10,954

How long should a Sword & Sorcery short story be?

Guest Post by

One of the great things about our crazy Amazon-driven book world is that book length matters less than it used to. In the world of the 1790s, books had to be triple decker novels. During the Age of the Storytellers (as Mike Ashley calls it), for A. Conan Doyle and the crowd of story writers that filled the new magazines, 6-9000 words was the target. Pulps, paperbacks, and now online publishing, have all dictated to the length of works. It is only now, when an ebook is a file, no different than any other file, that we seem to be free from these constraints.

Art by John Buscema and Alfred Alcala

I think we can all agree, first off, any story needs to be as long as it needs to be to be told well. As Ben Peek, author of Black Sheep says, “Honestly, I don’t really think there is an ideal length. Depends on the work, on the ideas behind it, and how long and short that all is.” John R. Fultz, author of Seven Princes, agrees: “I’d say there is no ideal length–it’s whatever the story will support–and whatever the author feels comfortable writing. Or David Bain with: “the one that tells the story.” The nature of any story should determine its length.” Despite this, I still think there is a sweet spot for Sword & Sorcery. It might not be the same as Space Opera or a Western or even a novel of manners.

Perhaps the father of Sword & Sorcery can help. Robert E. Howard is the acknowledged creator of all-things Conan and Kull. His Fantasy fiction ranged from shorter pieces to one full-length novel, Hour of the Dragon (1935) at 73,000 words. All the original Weird Tales Conan stories are either novelettes (7500 to 17500) or novellas (17500-40,000). The original Conan saga averages out at 18,500 words a story. 

In 1973, Lin Carter edited the first of five volumes in the Flashing Swords (1973-1981) series. These anthologies of original novellas featured (usually) four stories of 15,000 words each. As Carter put it: “A charming editrix, Gail Morrison of Dell Books, liked the idea and requested an original 15,000 worder from each of us, that being, in the opinion of many writers, just about the best length for a good story.”

I had very much in mind Carter’s format when I created the Swords of Fire anthology, which features four 15,000-ish tales from David A. Hardy, C. J. Burch, Jack Mackenzie and myself. One of these days, there will be a Swords of Fire 2, and hopefully 3 and 4…. because I have such a love for Sword & Sorcery novellas. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I need to think differently about this for the next one.

I’ve asked a host of writers of heroic fantasy writers (I think “host’ is the right term here, you know, like a murder of crows) what they prefer.

The Really Short Story

Marcie Tentchoff: I’ll always have a fondness for flash fiction, even in heroic fantasy. And heroic fantasy novels often end up becoming a series, which makes word count less important.

Short Story

Robin Wayne Bailey, author of the Frost trilogy and Swords Against the Shadowland: “For novels or stories, the complexity of the story always dictates the length. I don’t think you can declare a specific word-limit “ideal.” For marketing purposes, most anthologies require around 6,000 words or less. Much more than that should probably be discussed with the editor. I’ve written s&s stories as short as (roughly) 4,000 word and as long as 10,000 words.”

Lillian Csernica: I like 8k. Depends on the story, of course.

Michael Ehart, author of The Servant of the Manythcore: “I have always enjoyed reading and writing in the 5000 word range for short stories. The pulp flavor is lost in a longer piece. There are important exceptions, of course.”

Howard Andrew Jones: At least 5 or 6k. I think it CAN be done at shorter length, but I think many of my faves come in at 8k or longer. Of course, as editor 8k is about my max, so I therefore like to say 5 to 8k.

Warren Lapine, most recently editor of Fantastic Stories says:  “3k on the Internet. At Fantastic Stories we found that far fewer people read the longer stories and articles. That said, if it takes more it takes more, and year end stuff can be different.”

James Lecky, frequent contributor to Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Black Gate, says: “To use an old fallback, I’d say it depends on the story in question. But, on a more personal level, I like a short that runs to 4 or 5 thousand, which gives scope for both character and action. When it comes to novels I prefer the ‘classic’ model – most of Moorcock’s novels were fairly short by modern standards (about 50,000 words at a guess) and I reckon that’s about right when the primary purpose is colorful adventure rather than soul-searching drama.”

Darrell Schweitzer, Fantasy author and editor: “There are very few short-shorts, but it can be anything from a short story to a multi-volume epic. I certainly have written sword & sorcery stories under 3000 words. Robert Jordan represents the other end of the spectrum. There is no one answer. Any story should be as long as it needs to be.”

Jason M. Waltz, author of Writing Fantasy Heroes: “Good question to which I don’t have a straight answer. I don’t think it lends itself to novel length – I think S&S can be in novels, can even infuse a novel, but I don’t think it can be effectively sustained through the novel length. I think great S&S can be carried through the novella and novelette and I would not be adverse to reading such works by anyone claiming to have done so. So that leaves the short story; I’ve read great S&S at 2,000 words and at 9,000, but I’m going to say I personally prefer the 5-7k range. Does that make it the ideal? How about for me, yes.”


Seth Lindberg, author of the Dyscrasia series: “Short story to novella (5 to 20k words) I really like the novella or short novel length for sword and sorcery. Generally a novel should be no longer than 65,000 to 70,000 words. For novella’s, 20,000 to 35,000. I like S&S short stories a lot too. Great lengths are 6,000 to 10,000.”

John O’Neil, editor of Black Gate: “Well, I love novellas. I’d have to say 10,000-20,000 words.”

Joshua Reynolds, Warhammer novelist: “I think anywhere from 5 – 10,000 is a good solid length, that allows for character development, atmosphere and action. Most of my S&S fiction tends to fall into the 6,000 range, which is the sweet spot for me.”

Best-selling author, Michael A. Stackpole: “Don’t want to sound flip, but whatever length the story demands. For me, right now, I like working in the novella range 7K+ words. Give me room for character development and a strong plot.”

C. L. Werner, another Warhammer novelist: “I think for a short story, you should be shooting for between 5,000 words and 10,000. That said, Howard himself used to make longer-form pieces that moved just as fast as any shorter narrative.”

Davidy Hardy: I am partial to the 10K novella. It’s a pretty neglected form these days, though electronic publishing gives you more freedom. Back to my point, novellas give you room to develop the setting, while maintaining focus on the action. It was an optimum for Howard, Leiber, Moorcock and others who helped create Heroic Fantasy. They worked in the pulps where tight restrictions on length were common. REH, Leiber & Moorcock were also strong enough to swing headline spots with a more generous word count. Clark Ashton Smith created some real gems with fewer words, and of course Tolkein famously wrote a trilogy. But I find very few who can match their unique talents in those forms.

Short Novel

Valerie Frankel: “I love big 600 pagers.”

Scottish Horror and Fantasy author, Willie Meikle: “Around the 50-60K mark for me, like all those Moorcock ones.”

Peter Welmerink, co-author of Bedlam Unleashed: “For “lengthy” piece I’d say anywhere from 45 to 90k words. That’s just me. I like reading shorter pieces, but writing…I can’t do Robert Jordan-sized scrawls…plus I’d lose interest, I think, if reading such a volume. I have always been a fan of short fantasy tales. They have to hit on all cylinders throughout the entire piece to be good.”

E. P. Berglund: The ideal length for heroic fantasy . . . hm. As a writer I would have to say it depends on the plot; as a reader I would say between short story and novelette length. Some of the Conan in the 60s and 70s were kind of hard to get through. I don’t really read heroic fantasy much anymore.

Jack Mackenzie, author of “The Green Beast” says: “Sword and Sorcery tales need to move fast. They’re lean tales that don’t have a lot of space for interpersonal transactions or political minutiae. Something like Game of Thrones ( if you want to consider it Sword and Sorcery) is obviously an outlier. For me I go by Robert E. Howard. His longest Conan tales are around 75,000 words. That’s about the longest I would go, personally. Any more and you risk boring your reader, which is something that S&S should never do.”

Full Novel

CJ Cherryh: I’d say a ‘direct’ plot, few subplots, and no more than 100,000 words. Readers want to get to the un-tangle with little baggage and have a main character who’s a rogue with a sense of honor, or at least honest determination.

David Farland: “I kind of like longish books in fantasy–225,000 words feels good to me Any shorter, and I want more.”

James A. Moore, Fantasy and Horror novelist: “That’s a tough call. I normally average right at 100,000 words per novel, but mostly I write series, so, you know, 400,000 and 300,000 respectively if you add the series together, But mostly I aim at 100,00 because much longer gets unwieldy.”

Robert E. Vardeman, author of many excellent heroic fantasy novels in the 1990s, and more recently the novelization of God of War: “The 75k length works for me. Long enough to get things done without getting boring and destroying yet another forest.”

Angeline Hawkes: I think it’s hard to have an extremely short story in the heroic fiction genre — because most plots are quest-driven. Unless the story is entirely earth-based, there also has to be some world building or at least character development so the story doesn’t seem cookie-cutter. So, I would say a good length for a short story would be 6-10k, and a novel would be a minimum of 80k. I know “back in the day” a lot of writers cranked out 40k “novels”, but I think the 20-40k range now falls mostly into novella lengths. I also think that most heroic fantasy works tend to be action-driven so the work (if written well) reads fast, if you know what I mean. So what might seem longish and, perhaps, more tedious to read in a longer length in another genre, seems over much too soon in heroic fantasy.

Charles Gramlich, author of the Talera Cycle and editor of The Dark Man: The Journal of Robert E, Howard Studies: “I really like the novella or short novel length for sword and sorcery. Generally a novel should be no longer that 65,000 to 70,000 words. For novellas, 20,000 to 35,000. I like S & S short stories a lot too. Great lengths are 6,000 to 10,000.”

Perhaps we are all like Angeline and Charles. We like them all, as long as they are awesome tales of heroes and monsters and fantastic worlds. Whatever your favorite length is, remember to support your favorite authors. 


See Also

Word Counts in Sword & Sorcery
The Scarlet Citadel, by Robert Howard
Phoenix on the Sword, by Robert E. Howard 
The Frost Giant's Daughter, by Robert E. Howard
List of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian Stories
When does Conan the Barbarian become public domain?

Fantasy Maps of Nyumbani (World of Imaro)

 I recently purchased two books of the Imaro book series by Charles Saunders and have decided to investigate and make a blog about the maps created for the fantasy world of Nyumbani in which the Imaro books take place in. The Imaro series is an AfroFantasy / Sword and Sorcery series similar to Conan the Barbarian.

But first...

Check out the Imaro Unboxing Video I made... 

And now... the maps of Nyumbani!

There has been talk of an Imaro TV show, possibly animated. If so I would love to see it someday.

Wattpad is Totally Worth Joining, even for Professional Writers

 As a part-time writer (and part time archery instructor) I have been balancing my two modes of working for years, trying to find the best ways to market my writing and get more sales when I am not busy writing or teaching archery.

Back in May at the prompting of a fellow fantasy writer here in Toronto I ended up joining Wattpad.

And wow.

It was really worth it.

Wattpad allows professional writers (and amateurs) to reach an audience of readers that you wouldn't otherwise be reaching. A very large audience of 80 million monthly active users, and I have good news if your target audience is female: 70% of Wattpad's users are women.

Worried that people might try to steal my writing off the website when I first joined I put a lot of my Fables, Short Stories and Poetry on Wattpad, stories that I didn't really worry about people potentially trying to copy.

(This was before I found out that the website has disabled copy/paste, and that most users on the website access it via an app which also has copy/paste disabled.)

So here's some of the fables, short stories and poetry I uploaded to Wattpad:


Fables of Korovia (A collection of fables set in Korovia)

The Fable of the Boring Dwarf (A greedy dwarf who owns a hole boring company)

The Princess and the Foxalope (A children's story set in Korovia)

The Turkey Vulture's Tale (Two cursed lovers get their just rewards)

The Fable of the Incubus of Izhamet (A fable for adults about teamwork)

Short Stories

The Bogatyr's Adventures (Anthology Series of Short Stories)

The Hab and the Witch (A cross between John Wick and The Hobbit)

A Hound Named Hunter (A time paradox concerning a wolfhound)

Wulfric the Wanderer (Sword and Sorcery Anthology Series)

The Imp's Arrow (A greedy conjuror gets more than he bargained for)

Brawl at the Broken Blade (A prelude to a novel currently available on Amazon)

The Legend of Dark Maya (How Maya became the goddess of magic and dark magic)


(Most of my poetry these days is based on mythology)

Rama and Sita

The Sumerian Legend of Lilith

Atalanta and the Prophecy of Orpheus

The Voyages of Orion

After realizing the marketing potential of Wattpad, and determining that it was extremely difficult for anyone to potentially copy/paste my stories on there due to copy/paste being disabled (people would have to literally type it out or some equally time consuming method), I eventually decided to put two of my novels on there.

The Girl in the Red Hoodie (A cross between Die Hard, Rocky and the Hunger Games)

The Demon's Pawn (Second Edition, a fantasy novel concerning a young woman who is being watched by demon's with a dire purpose)

I decided to put those put novels on Wattpad for several reasons.

#1. I was still writing "The Girl in the Red Hoodie" and I considered it to be a fun side project outside of my regular routine of writing fantasy novels and short stories. I didn't really take that particular novel seriously, and yet it is currently my most popular piece on Wattpad.

#2. "The Demon's Pawn" was previously on Amazon Kindle, but it never sold well. I decided to edit it and make a Second Edition version that would have significant changes to it. I started writing The Demon's Pawn in 1999 (it was my first story set in Korovia) and it has gone through numerous revisions during the past 21 years. It was published under my pseudonym "Frederic King" at one point and I later determined that the pseudonym was a bad idea and that I was better off using my own name.

#3. You can also sell books on Wattpad, but to do so you need to get "Wattpad Star" status, and to do that you need to write at least two novels that are 50,000 words or more. So I had decided to put two of my less important works on Wattpad, with the hopes that if I gain Wattpad Star status that they will then become more important and get more 'fan traction'.

#4. Because "The Demon's Pawn" and "The Girl in the Red Hoodie" both have female protagonists it should appeal to the 70% of Wattpad users who are female, and because they are both action-adventure stories they won't alienate male readers either.

I have also started putting Excerpts from my other books on Amazon on Wattpad too. If a person reads an excerpt and likes it they will have to buy the book on Amazon if they want to keep reading.

After analyzing how Wattpad works I even wrote a nonfiction piece on How to Become Popular on Wattpad... Following my own advice in the piece I am currently on track to reach 1000 followers sometime in early or mid October 2020.

What is bizarre is that I see writers who have been on Wattpad for 5 years or more, but they still have zero followers. They must be doing the exact opposite things I am doing. I quickly learned that Wattpad is essentially a bit like Twitter and Instagram. Popularity on there is determined in much the same way that social media websites work - follow other writers and they will typically followback. Likewise getting readers is simply a matter of writing good quality writing, lots of it, and sometimes talking to the other writers by giving feedback/comments on their work.

I have also determined that Wattpad is invaluable for getting feedback, even if the work is still technically a work in progress and you are editing it. Other writers (and readers) will give editing notes in the comments in an effort to help you make changes. Some of the comments you can just ignore because some readers just have different expectations of what they consider to be "good".

I have had free samples of my poetry, fables and short stories on my website for years and never once received comments/feedback from readers on whether they liked something or felt it could be improved. I know people were reading them, because I could see the monthly stats and even how much time the average user stayed on individual pages, but people were certainly not feeling obligated to send commentary. On Wattpad it is very different. Because it works like a social media website people often leave comments.

Usually I only get feedback on my books when someone writes an actual book review and puts it on Amazon or GoodReads, but this is comparatively rare. On Wattpad people will leave comments on individual sentences or paragraphs. Detailed comments. Questions. Anecdotes. LOLs.

All of those comments also add to Wattpad's algorithms for determining popularity. The more stars and comments a person gets the more popular they must be.

My Goals on Wattpad

Build a collection of free samples of my writing, including poetry, fables, short stories and even a few sample novels - tempting people to go buy my other writing.

To build an audience of 1000s of followers. (At the time I am writing this I already have 736 followers and I've only been on Wattpad for 4 months.)

Get Wattpad Star status so I can also sell my novels on Wattpad.

Grow and expand my fan base, both on Wattpad and also on my social media accounts like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Growing a fan base and getting 'fan traction' really relies on people becoming die hard fans of your work and they are anxiously awaiting your next chapter/next book/next short story that you release. The really die hard fans will buy all your books and even write reviews.

Get more sales for my Amazon Kindle books and paperbacks available via Some of them I may eventually make available on Wattpad.

Why Wattpad Matters to Professional Writers

Margaret Atwood is on Wattpad.

She recognized that Wattpad was a great way to reach readers who wouldn't otherwise know about an individual writer's writing. She even wrote an opinion piece about it for The Guardian:

What matters about Wattpad is that your writing is made instantly available to a very large of mostly young readers. Mostly millennials and centennials in their teens, 20s and 30s. 80 million monthly users. Roughly 56 million women and 24 million men.

Even if they don't go out and buy your books you are also increasing you name recognition and branding. They might see your name on Wattpad and if you later have physical books in a bookstore those same people are more likely to see your name, recognize it, and then buy your physical books.

Hence why for professional writers Wattpad makes a lot of sense.

Doesn't Wattpad have a lot of Fanfiction and Smut?

Yes, yes it does. And smutty fanfiction too. Wattpad is a huge platform and every genre or subgenre you can think of is on there. Very few things are too outrageous for Wattpad. Werewolf Erotica? Okay. Harry Potter Fanfiction? Tonnes of that on there. People cannot sell fanfiction on there, but it is still there and available.

But lets pretend that your book is similar to Harry Potter... Or you are writing a romance involving werewolves... Then Wattpad would be a great place to promote your writing.

Writing short flash fiction? Wattpad has that too. It has practically everything except a lot of nonfiction... There is a section for nonfiction, but it is full of fiction because apparently a lot of people don't understand the difference between fiction and nonfiction and Wattpad needs to do a better job of monitoring stories that are in the wrong section.

Just because there is a lot of fanfiction and smut doesn't mean that it isn't a good place to find readers. If anything it proves it is a good place to get readers, because FANS write fanfiction. If you want to get more fans then you need to go where the potential fans are.

And to illustrate my point Margaret Atwood currently has 112,000+ fans on Wattpad, and a chunk of the stuff she has on there is advice for other writers. Eg. How to Write a Story Plot, How to Outline your Novel in 5 Steps. She also organizes contests and has samples of her writing on there.

Want to see what else I have on Wattpad?

Just visit my Wattpad page and browse:

5 Ways to World Build without Narrative Text

1. Maps and More Maps
A more detailed map of the world. Detailed maps of any interiors of importance. Eg. Below, a map of Minas Tirith from the Lord of the Rings.

2. Timeline
Include a timeline of important historical events at the front of the book.
Eg. Check out the very detailed expanded timeline for the Kingdom of Korovia.

3. Appendix of Named Characters
Also known as "Dramatis Personae". This allows you to introduce the characters before they even appear in the book. You can also potentially mention characters here which are mentioned in the book, but they don't actually appear in any scenes in the book because their off screen actions are subtext for major plot points.

4. Illustrations for Important Scenes, Places, People or Objects
Eg. Below, an illustration of Rivendell by J. R. R. Tolkien.

5. Website World Building 
Including an URL in the book where readers can learn more about your world. You could have individual pages dedicated to languages, cultures, food, a whole atlas of maps, monsters, how magic in the world works, and more. Those pages can also serve as a hub for marketing your social media accounts.
While building such detailed info pages for your website can be quite a task, the fact that it can also serve to help market your book(s) means that is serves double duty as both marketing and world building.


Charles Moffat's "Kingdom of Korovia" is a Tolkien-esque / Dungeons and Dragons style world, in which he mixes together Robert E. Howard's more Sword and Sorcery style, as well as dark fantasy and heroic fantasy.

The amount of background info on is enough to fill a small book and includes such topics as:

Something Ends, Something Begins

Unofficial Translation

The following is a fan translation of "Something Ends, Something Begins", which is an unpublished Witcher story written by Andrzej Sapkowski. The original story was written in Polish as a wedding gift for friends of Sapkowski and it was never published and never properly translated into English. Copies of the story were later shared online and fans translated it into English.


The sun pushed its fiery tentacles through the cracks of the window-shutters, sliced the chamber with slanted streaks of light, pulsing in the hovering dust, spilled in bright spots on the floor and the bear skins covering it, and shattered in a blinding flash on the buckle of Yennefer's belt. Yennefer's belt lay on a high-heeled shoe, the high-heeled shoe lay on a white lace shirt, and the white shirt lay on a black skirt. One black stocking hung on the backrest of an armchair carved in a shape of a chimaera. The second stocking and the second shoe couldn't be seen anywhere. Geralt sighed. Yennefer liked to undress fast and elementally. He would have to start getting used to it. He had no other choice.

He stood up, opened the shutters and looked out. From the lake, smooth as a mirror board, rose haze, the leaves of the birches and alders growing on the shores glittered with drops of dew, the far meadows were covered with low, thick mist, hanging like a cobweb close over the tops of the grasses.

Yennefer wriggled under the blanket with an indistinct mumble. Geralt sighed.

"It's a beautiful day today, Yen."

"Eeeh? What?"

"It's a beautiful day. An exceptionally beautiful one."

She surprised him. Instead of cursing and hiding her head beneath the pillow, the sorceress sat up, ran her hand through her hair and began searching the bed for the nightgown. Geralt knew that the nightgown lay behind the head of the bed; just where Yennefer had thrown it last night. But he was silent. Yennefer hated these sort of comments.

The sorceress cursed suddenly, kicked the blanket, raised her hand and snapped her fingers. The nightgown flew out from behind the bed and, waving the flounces like an eerie ghost, landed straight into the extended hand. Geralt sighed. Yennefer rose, walked to him, embraced him and bit his arm. Geralt sighed. The list of things he'd have to get used to seemed infinite.

"Did you want to say something?" asked the sorceress with narrowed eyes.


"That's good. You know what? Today is a beautiful day, of course. Good work."

"Work? What do you mean?"

Before Yennefer could answer, they heard a high, long cry and a whiz from below. On the lakeshore, splashing showers of water around, Ciri galloped on a black mare. The mare was thoroughbred and particularly nice. Geralt knew that it once belonged to a certain half-elf, who judged the ashen-haired witcher girl by the first impression and was nastily mistaken. Ciri named the mare Kelpie, which in the language of the islanders from Skellige meant a terrible and choleric spirit of the sea that sometimes took a form of a horse. The name was quite perfect for the mare. It's not been a long time since a certain halfling learned this the hard way, when he tried to steal her. The halfling's name was Sandy Frogmorton, but he's been called "Cauliflower" (because of the face after the mare's kick) ever since.

"One day she'll break her neck," growled Yennefer, watching Ciri galloping in the splashing water, bent, firm in the stirrups. "One day your crazy daughter will break her neck."

Geralt turned his head and without a word looked into the sorceress's violet eyes.

"All right, then," smiled Yennefer, without averting her eyes. "Sorry, our daughter."

She hugged him again, pressing herself against him firmly, bit him in the arm again, kissed him, and bit him once more. Geralt touched her hair with his lips and carefully pulled her gown over her shoulders.

And then they ended up again in the bed with scattered blankets, still warm and soaked with dreams. And they started to search for each other, and they searched very long and very patiently. Knowing that they would eventually find each other filled them with joy and happiness. Joy and happiness was in everything they did. And even though both were so different, they realized, as always, that those weren't differences that divide, but that bring together and bind, bind so strongly and so tightly, like siting of spars and the roof ridge, siting from which a house is born. And it was like the first time, when he was entranced by her glaring nakedness and intensive desire, and she was enthralled by his finesse and sensibility. And just like the first time she wanted to tell him, but he silenced her with a kiss and a caress and literally took away all the sense of it. Later, when he wanted to tell her, he couldn't get a sound out of himself, and later still the happiness and delight overwhelmed them with power of a falling rock, and there remained only one big flash beneath the eyelids, and there remained something which was a silent outcry, and the world ceased to exist, something ended and something began, something stopped and there was silence, silence and peace.

And enchantment.

The world was slowly returning to its tracks and again here was a bed saturated with dreams and sunlit chamber and a day... Day...



"When you said that the day was beautiful, you added 'good work'. Does that mean..."

"It does," she confirmed and stretched on her spread arms, clutching the tips of the blanket, so that in that moment her breasts arose in such a way, that it evoked a powerful tremor in the lower part of the witcher's body.

"Look, Geralt, we created this weather. Last night. Myself, Nenneke, Triss and Dorregaray. I couldn't risk it, this day must be beautiful..."

She fell silent and jabbed his side with her knee.

"Why, it's the most important day in your life, silly."


The castle Rozrog, standing on a jut in the middle of the lake, was in a dire need of general repairs, both exterior and interior, and not just now. To put it mildly, Rozrog was a ruin, a shapeless heap of stones thickly overgrown with ivy, wild wine, lichen and moss. It was a ruin standing in the middle of lakes, swamps and marshes swarming with frogs, salamanders and turtles. It was a ruin even back when it was given to the king Herwig. The castle Rozrog and the surrounding marshland were something like a lifelong gift - a goodbye gift for Herwig, who had abdicated twelve years ago in favour of his nephew Brennan, called the Good. Geralt met the former king through Dandelion, because the troubadour stayed at the castle quite often, since Herwig was a pleasant and nice host.

Dandelion brought up Herwig and his castle when Yennefer ruled out all places from the witcher's list as unsuitable. Oddly enough, the sorceress agreed with Rozrog immediately, and didn't even wrinkle her nose.

And so it happened that the wedding of Geralt and Yennefer would happen at the castle Rozrog.


At first it was supposed to be a small and off record wedding, but in time it turned out - for various reasons - that it was not possible, so it was necessary to find someone with organisational abilities. Yennefer of course refused this; she didn't like organising her own wedding. Geralt and Ciri, let alone Dandelion, didn't have a clue about organisation. And so they charged Nenneke, the priestess of the goddess Melitele from Ellander, with it. Nenneke came immediately, and with her two younger priestesses, Iola and Eurneid.

And the problems started.


"No, Geralt," huffed Nenneke and stamped her foot. "I will take no responsibility for the ceremony or the feast. That ruin, which some idiot calls a castle, is of no use at all. The kitchen is falling apart, the dancing hall can be used only as a stable, and the chapel... Essentially it isn't even a chapel. Can you at least tell me what god that lame Herwig worships?"

"As far as I know, he worships none. He claims that the religion is a mandragora for the masses."

"I could've thought that," said the priestess, not hiding her scorn. "There is not one statue in the chapel, there's nothing at all, not counting the mouse pellets. And on top of everything it's such a damned backwater. Geralt, why don't you want to have your wedding in Vengerberg, in a civilised country?"

"You know that Yen is a quadroon and they don't tolerate mixed marriages in these civilised countries of yours."

"By the Great Melitele! One-quarter elven blood, is that a problem? Almost everyone has some kind of a mixture of the blood of the Elder Folk. It's nothing but idiotic prejudices!"

"I didn't make them up."


The list of the guests wasn't that long. The engaged couple compiled it together and charged Dandelion with sending the invitations. Soon it turned out that the troubadour lost the list before he could even read it. Because he was ashamed to confess, he used a cheap trick and invited whomever he could. Of course he knew Geralt and Yennefer well enough that he didn't miss anyone important, but it wouldn't have been him if he didn't enrich the list of the guests by an admirable number of quite random persons.

And so there arrived old Vesemir from Kaer Morhen, Geralt's mentor, and together with him the witcher Eskel, a childhood friend of Geralt.

There came the druid Mousesack in the company of a bronze-tanned blonde called Freya who was one head taller and a couple of hundred years younger than him. Together with them arrived the jarl Crach an Craite from Skellige in a company of his sons Ragnar and Loki. When riding a horse, Ragnar's feet almost reached the ground. Loki resembled a delicate elf. After all, it was no wonder - they were brothers, but their mothers were two different wives of the jarl.

The reeve Caldemeyn from Blaviken reported with his daughter Annika, quite attractive but a terribly shy girl. The dwarf Yarpen Zigrin showed up, without - which was interesting - his usual company of bearded bandits, whom he called "ogres". Yarpen was joined on the road by elf Chireadan, whose status among the Elder Folk was not quite clear, but indisputably high, accompanied by several reticent elves, known to no one.

There arrived a clamorous troop of halflings, of which Geralt knew only Dainty Biberveldt, a farmer of Knotweed Meadow, and by hearsay his quarrelsome wife Gardenia. To this troop belonged also a halfling who was not a halfling - the famous businessman and merchant Tellico Lunngrevink Letorte of Novigrad, a changeling, doppler, acting as a halfling under the assumed name of Dudu.

Baron Freixenet from Brokilon appeared, together with his wife, the noble dryad Braenn, and five daughters called Morenn, Cirilla, Mona, Eithné and Kashka. Morenn looked fifteen and Kashka looked five. They all had fiery red hair, even though Freixenet was black-haired and Braenn honey-blonde. Braenn was visibly pregnant. Freixenet claimed quite seriously that this time it must be a son, while his flock of red-haired dryads looked at each other and giggled, and Braenn added with a light smile that said "son" will be called Melissa.

There also came Jarre Onehand, the young priest and chronicler from Ellander, ward of Nenneke. He came mainly because of Ciri, whom he secretly loved. Ciri, as it seemed to the embittered Nenneke, took the shy flirting of the crippled young man too lightly.

The list of unexpected guests started with the Prince Agloval of Bremervoord, whose arrival was considered a miracle, since he and Geralt openly despised each other. Even stranger was that he came in the company of his wife, the siren Sh'eenaz. Even though Sh'eenaz once sacrificed her fish tail in exchange for a pair of uncommonly beautiful legs, it was known that she never moved away from the seashore because she was afraid of land.

Few expected the arrival of other crowned heads - who weren't invited anyway. Nevertheless, the monarchs sent letters, gifts, messengers - or all at once. They must have arranged it, because the messengers traveled in one group and became friends. Knight Yves represented King Ethain, castellan Sulivoy represented King Venzlav, Sir Matholm represented King Sigismund, and Sir Devereux represented Queen Adda, the former striga. The trip must have been cheerful, because Yves had a cut lip, Sulivoy's arm was hanging on a band, Matholm was limping and Devereux had such a hangover that he hardly kept himself in the saddle.

No one invited the golden dragon Villentretenmerth, because no one knew how to invite him and where to look for him. To the general astonishment the dragon turned up, of course incognito, in the form of the knight Borch Three Jackdaws. Of course, where Dandelion was present, one could not speak of any incognito, but even so few believed when the poet pointed at the curly-haired knight and claimed it was a dragon.

No one expected nor invited the colorful rabble, whom were marked as "Dandelion's friends and acquaintances". It was mostly poets, musicians and troubadours, plus an acrobat, a professional dice player, a crocodile-trainer and four over-made-up dolls out of which three looked like prostitutes and the fourth one, who didn't look like a trollop, was undoubtedly one, too. The group was complemented by two prophets, out of which one was fraudulent, one sculptor, one blonde and ever drunken female medium, and a pock-marked gnome who claimed his name was Schuttenbach.

In a magical amphibious ship, resembling a swan crossed with a giant pillow, arrived the wizards. There were four times less of them than were invited, and three times more than expected, because Yennefer's colleagues, as the rumour went, disapproved her marriage to a man outside their brotherhood - and a witcher on top of that. A part of them ignored the invitation, and a part excused themselves because of lack of time and a necessity to participate on the annual world convent of magi. So on the board of the - as Dandelion named it - "pillowbird" was only Dorregaray from Vole and Radcliffe from Oxenfurt. And there was also Triss Merigold with hair of color of October chestnuts.


"Was it you who invited Triss Merigold?"

"No," the witcher shook his head and silently praised the fact that the mutation of his blood system didn't allow him to blush. "Not me. I think it was Dandelion, even though all of them claim to have learned about the wedding from the magical crystals."

"I don't want Triss to be present on my wedding!"

"But why? She's your friend."

"Don't make a fool out of me, witcher! Everyone knows you slept with her!"

"That's not true."

Yennefer's violet eyes narrowed dangerously.

"It is true."

"Is not!"

"It is!"

"All right," he turned around angrily. "It is true. So?"

The sorceress was quiet for a moment, playing with the obsidian star on the black velvet ribbon around her neck.

"Nothing," she said at last. "I just wanted you to admit it. Never try to lie to me, Geralt. Ever."


The wall smelled of wet stones and sour herbs, the sun shone through the brown water in the ditch, drew out the warm green of the growth on the bottom of the marshes and the sparkling yellow of the beaver lilies floating on the level.

The castle was slowly awakening to life. In the western wing someone flung open the window-shutters and laughed out loudly. Somebody else begged in a weak voice for the sauerkraut brine. One of Dandelion's colleagues, visiting on the castle, a blind man, sang while shaving:

Behind the hay barn, on a fence

A cock there very loudly sings
I'll get right back to you, lassie
When I vent myself a bit...

The door creaked and Dandelion came out to the courtyard. He stretched and rubbed his eyes.

"How are you doing, bridegroom," he said in a tired voice. "If you want to get away, now is your last chance."

"You've become a morning bird, Dandelion."

"I actually didn't even go to bed," grunted the poet, sitting down on a stone bench next to the witcher and leaning on a wall overgrown with vines. "Gods, what a night. But hey, friends don't get married every day, we had to celebrate."

"The wedding party is today," Geralt reminded him. "Are you going to make it through?"

"Are you trying to insult me?"

The sun was burning and the birds chirped in the bushes. From the lake could be heard splashing and squeaking. Morenn, Cirilla, Mona, Eithné and Kashka, the red-haired dryads, Freixenet's daughters, were swimming naked, as always, in the company of Triss Merigold and Mousesack's friend Freya. Above, on the disintegrating battlements, the royal messengers, knights Yves, Sulivoy, Matholm and Devereux fought for the telescope.

"Did you at least have fun, Dandelion?"

"Don't even ask."

"Any big scandal?"


The first scandal, as the poet reported, was racially based. Tellico Lungrevink Letorte suddenly proclaimed in the middle of party that he'd had enough of the halfling disguise. The doppler pointed at the present dryads, elves, halflings, a siren, a dwarf and a gnome who claimed that his name was Schuttenbach, and said that it was a discrimination that everyone could be themselves, only he, Tellico, had to be dressed in someone else's skin. Then he changed for a moment into his natural form. At that sight, Gardenia Biberveldt fainted, the Prince Agloval almost choked on a lobster and Annika, reeve Caldemeyn's daughter, went into hysterics. The situation was saved by the dragon Villentretenmerth, still in the form of Borch Three Jackdaws, who calmly explained to the doppler that being able to change forms is a privilege, which, however, also obligates the changeling to always acquire a form that is acceptable by society, and that is nothing else than a mere politeness towards the host.

The doppler accused Villentretenmerth of racism, chauvinism and lack of knowledge on the discussion's topic. Therefore, the insulted Villentretenmerth changed for a moment into his natural dragon form, destroying several pieces of furniture and causing a general panic. When the situation calmed down, a fierce quarrel began, in which humans and non-humans accused each other of lack of open-mindedness and racial tolerance. A quite unexpected twist in the discussion came from the freckled Merle, the whore who didn't look like a whore. Merle announced that the whole debate was stupid and pointless and didn't concern true professionals, who don't dinstinguish between such things, which she was willing to prove on the spot (for an adequate reward, of course), even with the dragon Villentretenmerth in his natural form. In the silence that fell abruptly in that instant they heard the female medium proclaim that she's willing to do the same, and for free. Villentretenmerth quickly changed the topic and began discussing safer topics, such as economics, politics, hunting, fishing and gambling.

Other scandals were more or less friendly. Mousesack, Radcliffe and Dorregaray made a bet about who can levitate more things at once with the power of their wills. Dorregaray won, having managed to keep in the air two chairs, a fruits tray, a bowl of soup, a globe, a cat, two dogs and Kashka, Freixenet and Braenn's daughter.

Then Freixenet's two middle daughters, Cirilla and Mona, brawled, and had to be sent to their rooms. Shortly after, Ragnar brawled with the knight Matholm over Morenn, the Freixenet's eldest daughter. The angry Freixenet ordered Braenn to lock all their red-haired children in a room and joined the competition in drinking, which was organized by Mousesack's girlfriend Freya. It became apparent very soon that Freya had an unimaginable resistance against alcohol, verging on immunity. Most of the poets and bards, Dandelion's friends, were already under the table, but Freixenet, Crach an Craite and the reeve Caldemeyn were still fighting bravely; however, at the end they gave in, too. The wizard Radcliffe was holding up very sturdily, but only until it was discovered that he had a unicorn's horn on him. After it was confiscated, he couldn't stand a chance against Freya. For a while, the islander's table was empty - then an utterly unknown pale man in an old-fashioned kaftan drank with her for a while. After some time the man stood up, staggered, bowed politely and walked through a wall as if it were mist. A thorough search through the ancient portraits decorating the walls of the hall brought a discovery that it could have been Willem, called the Devil, the heir of Rozrog, murdered in the Dark Ages several hundred years ago.

The ancient castle was hiding various secrets and in the past it enjoyed a questionable and grim fame. No further supernatural incidents occurred, though. Around midnight, a vampire flew in through an open window, but was chased off by the dwarf Yarpen Zigrin, who was throwing garlic at him, trying to hit. Throughout the whole evening something howled, rang with chains and moaned, but no one took notice of that, because everyone thought that it was Dandelion and the strongly rarefied group of his still relatively sober friends. It was nonetheless the ghosts, which was proved by a large amount of ectoplasm covering the stairs, on which several people slipped.

The boundaries of decency were crossed by a disheveled phantom with fiery eyes, who mischievously pinched at Sh'eenaz's butt. This disturbance could be set right only with difficulty, because Sh'eenaz thought it had been Dandelion. The phantom immediately took advantage of this mistake and began pinching other victims in the hall, until it was caught by Nenneke and expelled by exorcism.

Several people saw the White Lady, who - as far as the legends can be trusted - was buried alive in the Rozrog's catacombs. There were sceptics, who claimed that it was no White Lady, but the female medium that staggered around the galleries in search of more bottles.

Then there was the general disappearing of persons. The first ones to disappear were the knight Yves and the crocodile-trainer, a short while afterwards no one could find Ragnar and Eurneid, the priestess of Melitele. Next disappeared Gardenia Biberveldt, but it turned out that she went to bed. Suddenly, Jarre Onehand was missing, and so was the second Melitele's priestess, Iola. Ciri, even though she had been claiming that she didn't have any feelings towards Jarre, expressed certain concern, but it became clear that the young man fell into a shallow ditch, where he fell asleep. Iola was found under the staircase. With the elf Chireadan. Also Triss Merigold was seen, disappearing with the witcher Eskel from Kaer Morhen in the garden summerhouse. By morning someone claimed to have seen the doppler Tellico leaving the summerhouse. There was a lot of guesswork, which form did the doppler take, whether Triss or Eskel. Someone even presented a very bold thought that there were actually two dopplers present at the castle. They wanted to ask the dragon Villentretenmerth for his opinion, him being an expert on changing forms, but it turned out that the dragon had disappeared and the trollop Merle with him.

The second whore disappeared, too, and one of the prophets. The prophet that stayed, claimed to be the real one, but was unable to prove it. Also the gnome passing as Schuttenbach disappeared, and still hadn't been found yet.

"You can feel sorry," finished the bard with a wide yawn. "Regret that you weren't there, Geralt. It was a ball."

"I do regret it," growled the witcher. "But you know... I couldn't, because Yennefer... Well, you understand..."

"'Course I know," agreed Dandelion. "That's why I don't get married."


From the castle's kitchen came the sounds of pans chiming, merry laughter and ditties. To feed all that mass of guests was a problem, because King Herwig had practically no household. The presence of the wizards solved nothing, because for the purpose of general happiness it was decided that only natural products would be served, and the idea of culinary magic was scrapped. So it ended with Nenneke hunting anyone she could into work. At first it wasn't simple; those who were snatched up by the priestess had not the least idea about kitchen work, and those who did, ran away. However, Nenneke found an unexpected help in the person of Gardenia Biberveldt and the halflings from her company. And, surprisingly, all four trollops from Dandelion's company proved to be excellent cooks willing to cooperate.

There were also no problems with provisions. Freixenet and Prince Agloval organised a hunt and supplied enough venison. It took Braenn and her daughters only two hours to fill the kitchen with game. Even the youngest dryad Kashka could brandish her bow fairly well. King Herwig, who loved fishing, sailed out at the grey dawn on the lake and delivered pikes, walleyes and huge basses. Loki, the younger son of Crach an Craite, kept him company. Loki was well up in fishery and boats, and in addition he was of use in the morning, because, like Herwig, he didn't drink.

Dainty Biberveldt and his relatives, enforced by the doppler Tellico, saw to the decoration of the hall and the chambers. Into the washing and cleaning up they chased both prophets, the crocodile-trainer, the sculptor and the ever-drunk female medium.

Surveillance over the cellar and drinks was first delegated to Dandelion and his friends the poets, which actually proved to be a catastrophic mistake. Therefore, the bards were driven out and the keys handed off to Mousesack's girlfriend Freya. Dandelion and his poets sat the whole day in front of the cellar door and tried to excite Freya with love ballads, against which the islander, however, proved to be as resistant as against alcohol.

Geralt raised his head, yanked out of his slumber by the clattering of hooves on the stony courtyard. From behind the bushes growing around the walls came Kelpie shining with water, with Ciri in the saddle. Ciri was dressed in her black leather costume and had a sword on her back, the famed Gveir, gained in the desert catacombs of Korath.

For a while they looked silently at each other, then the girl spurred her mare with her heel and came closer. Kelpie bowed her head to reach the witcher with her teeth, but Ciri held her back with a strong jerk of the reins.

"So today," said the witcher girl, not dismounting. "Today, Geralt."

"Today," he confirmed, leaning against the wall.

"I'm glad of it," she said uncertainly. "I think... No, I'm sure you'll be happy, and I'm glad..."

"Dismount, Ciri. Let's talk."

The girl shook her head and threw back her hair, behind her ear. Geralt saw a wide, ugly scar on her face - a memory of the earlier terrible days. Ciri let her hair grow to her shoulders and combed it in a way to hide the scar, but she often forgot.

"I'm leaving, Geralt," she announced. "Right after the feast."

"Dismount, Ciri."

The girl witcher jumped down from her saddle and sat down next to him. Geralt hugged her and Ciri put her head on his shoulder.

"I'm leaving," she repeated.

He said nothing. The words pushed to his lips, but there were none that he would consider suitable. Or necessary. He said nothing.

"I know what you think," she said slowly. "You think I'm running away. And you're right."

He was silent. He knew that.

"Finally, after all these years, you're getting married - Yen and you. You deserve happiness and peace. A home. But that scares me, Geralt. That's why... I'm running away."

He was silent. He remembered his own escapes.

"I'll get going right after the feast," Ciri repeated. "I want... I want to feel the wind in my face on the back of a galloping horse again. I want to see the stars on the horizon again, I want to whistle Dandelion's ballads at night. I'm longing for a fight, the dance with a sword, I'm longing for the risk, for the delight victory brings me. And I'm longing for solitude. Do you understand me?"

"Of course," he smiled sadly. "Of course I understand you, Ciri. You're my daughter, you're a witcher. You'll do what you must. But I must tell you one thing. One thing. You can't run away forever, even though you'll always try."

"I know," she replied and cuddled herself closer to him. "I still have hope that one day... If I wait, if I'm patient, then I, too, perhaps will live such a beautiful day like this... Such a nice day... Even though..."

"What, Ciri?"

"I've never been pretty. And with that scar..."

"Ciri," he cut her off. "You're the most beautiful girl in the world. Right after Yen, of course."

"Oh, Geralt..."

"If you don't believe me, ask Dandelion."

"Oh, Geralt."


"South," she interrupted him at once, without averting her face. "Smoke is still rising from the ground after the war there, the reconstruction is under way, people fight for survival. They need protection and defense. I'll be of use there. And there is also Korath... And Nilfgaard. I have unfinished business there. We both have unfinished business there, Gveir and me."

She fell silent. Her face hardened, her green eyes narrowed, her mouth twisted in a hateful grimace. I remember, thought Geralt, I remember. It was like this that time, when they fought together shoulder-to-shoulder on the stairs of Rhys-Rhun Castle. The stairs were slippery with blood, and on them stood he and she. Wolf and Cat, two deadly machines inhumanly fast and inhumanly cruel, drove into a corner, pushed back against a wall. Yes, then the Nilfgaardians, awestruck, retreated before the flashes and whizzes of their blades, and they slowly moved down, down the stairs of Rhys-Rhun Castle, wet with blood. They moved down, leaning on each other, linked together, and before them came death, death from two flashing blades. A cool, calm Wolf and an insane Cat. Flash of blades, cries, blood, death... Like that, that time it was like that... That time...

Ciri threw back her hair and among the ashen strands shone a snow-white streak on the temple.

It was then that her hair whitened.

"I have unfinished business there," she hissed. "For Mistle. For my Mistle. Even though I avenged her, but for Mistle one death is not enough."

Bonhart, he thought. She killed him out of hatred. Oh, Ciri, Ciri. You're standing on the edge of an abyss, daughter. Not a thousand deaths would avenge your Mistle. Beware of hatred, Ciri, it consumes like cancer.

"Watch out for yourself," he whispered.

"I'd rather watch out for others," she smiled ominously. "It pays off more, it works better in the long run."

I will never see her again, he thought. If she leaves, I will never see her again.

"You will," she answered unexpectedly and smiled with a smile of a sorceress, not of a witcher. "You will, Geralt."

Then she drew away, tall and slender like a boy, agile like a dancer. She sprang up into the saddle.

"Yaaa, Kelpie!!!"

Sparks burst from beneat the horse's hooves, the courtyard struck by horseshoes. Behind the wall Dandelion emerged, his lute on his shoulder, in each hand a big jug of beer.

"Here, have a drink," he said and sat next to him. "It will do you good."

"I don't know. Yennefer warned me that if she smells something from me..."

"You'll chew some parsley. Drink, whipped guy."

For a long time they sat in silence, slowly drinking the beer out of jugs. Dandelion sighed.

"Ciri is leaving, isn't she?"


"I thought so. Listen, Geralt..."

"Shut up, Dandelion."

"Oh well."

They fell silent again. From the kitchen there came a lovely smell of roasted venison, strongly spiced with juniper.

"Something ends," Geralt said with difficulty. "Something ends, Dandelion."

"Not at all," the poet shot back seriously. "Something begins."


The afternoon was marked by crying. It all began with an elixir of beauty. The elixir, an ointment to be more precise, called Feenglanc and "glamarye" in the Elder Speech, used in a specific way, incredibly improved one's beauty. Triss Merigold, invited by the lady guests at the castle, prepared a large quantity of glamarye, after which the ladies applied the cosmetic treatments. From behind the closed doors could be heard the weeping of Cirilla, Mona, Eithné and Kashka, who were not allowed to use glamarye. This honour was granted only to the oldest dryad Morenn. The loudest was Kashka. One floor above cried Lily, the daughter of Dainty Biberveldt, because it turned out that glamarye, like most of other charms, doesn't work on halflings. In the garden sniffled the female medium, because she had no idea that glamarye caused immediate sobering up and the consequences that go with it, mainly a deep melancholy. In the western wing of the castle cried Annika, reeve Caldemeyn's daughter, who didn't know that glamarye should be smeared under the eyes, instead ate her portion and got diarrhea. Ciri took her portion of glamrye and put it on Kelpie.

The priestesses Iola and Eurneid also sobbed, when Yennefer refused to put on the white wedding dress they had made for her. Not even Nenneke's mediation helped. Yennefer cursed, threw around hexes and dishes, while repeating that she looks like a fucking virgin in white. The enraged Nenneke began yelling, too, and told the sorceress that she behaved worse than three fucking virgins at once. Yennefer responded by conjuring a ball of lightning and demolishing the roof of the corner tower, which had its good side, too. The crash was so terrible that Caldemeyn's daughter got shock from it and her diarrhea stopped.

Triss Merigold and the witcher Eskel from Kaer Morhen, were seen again, sneaking, arms linked, into the garden summerhouse. There were no doubts now that it was really them, because the doppler Tellico was drinking beer in the company of Dandelion, Dainty Biberveldt and the dragon Villentretenmerth.

And despite a thorough and persistent search, the gnome claiming to be Schuttenbach could not be found.



She looked breathtaking. Black wavy locks, curled up with a golden tiara, fell in a shining cascade over her shoulders and the high collar of a long white brocade dress with black-striped sleeves, pulled together on a bodice with countless drapes of lilac ribbons.

"Flowers, don't forget the flowers," warned Triss Merigold, all in dark blue, and handed a bouquet of white roses to the bride. "Oh, Yen, I'm so happy..."

"Triss, darling," sobbed Yennefer all of a sudden, upon which both sorceresses embraced and kissed the air around their ears and diamond earrings.

"Enough of those endearments," ordered Nenneke, smoothing the folds on her snow-white priestess dress. "We're going to the chapel. Iola, Eurneid, hold her dress, or she'll kill herself on the stairs.

Yennefer approached Geralt and with a hand in a white lace glove she straightened the collar of his black cloak, embroidered with silver. Geralt offered her an arm.

"Geralt," she whispered into his ear. "I still can't believe it."

"Yen," he answered her in a whisper. "I love you."

"I know."


"Where in the devil is Herwig?"

"I've no idea," answered Dandelion, while polishing the buckles on his fashionable heather-colored camisole. "And where is Ciri?"

"I don't know," frowned Yennefer and sniffed. "But you stink of parsley, Dandelion. Have you become a vegetarian?"

The guests began to assemble and slowly they filled the spacious chapel. Agloval, all in ceremonial black, escorted a shiny white Sh'eenaz, next to them scurried the troop of halflings in beige, brown and ochre, Yarpen Zigrin and the dragon Villentretenmerth shone with gold, Freixenet and Dorregaray in purple, the royal messengers in their heraldic colors, elves and dryads in green, and Dandelion's acquaintances in ever color of the rainbow.

"Has anyone seen Loki?" asked Mousesack.

"Loki?" Eskel stepped closer and looked at them from under the pheasant feathers decorating his beret. "Loki went fishing with Herwig. I saw them in a boat on the lake. Ciri went after them, to tell them that it's starting."

"When was that?"

"Well, a while ago."

"Plague on them, bloody fishers!" cursed Crach an Craite. "When the fish are nibbling, they forget about the entire world. Ragnar, go fetch them!"

"Wait," said Braenn and brushed the dandelion fluff out of her deep decolletage. "We need someone who can run fast. Mona! Kashka! Raenn'ess aen laeke, va!"

"I told you," spluttered Nenneke, "that you couldn't rely on Herwig. An irresponsible fool like all atheists. Whoever had the idea that he should be the master of ceremony?"

"He's a king," said Geralt uncertainly. "A former one maybe, but still a king..."

"Long liiive..." sang suddenly one of the prophets, but the crocodile-trainer calmed him down with a punch to the back of his neck. The crowd of halflings buzzed, someone cursed and someone else got punched in the nose. Gardenia Biberveldt screamed, because the doppler Tellico had stepped on her dress.

The female medium began to sniffle without reason.

"Another moment," hissed Yennefer with a pleasant smile, fingers tightly clenching the bouquet. "Another moment and I'll be damned. Let it finally start. Let it be done with."

"Don't wriggle, Yen," snarled Triss, "or you'll rip the stitching."

"Where is the gnome Schuttenbach?" squawked one of the bards.

"We have no idea," the four whores shrieked in chorus.

"Then, by dog's mother, have someone look for him!" yelled Dandelion. "He promised to bring flowers. What are we going to do now? Neither Schuttenbach nor the flowers are here. How do we look like now?"

From the chapel entrance came a murmur and both dryads sent to the lake ran in screaming. Behind them dashed Loki, soaking wet and dirty, with a big slash on his forehead.

"Loki!" cried Crach an Craite. "What happened?"

"Maaamaaaaaa!" cried Kashka.

"Que'ss aen!" Braenn grabbed her daughters and, all shaking and disturbed, she switched into the dialect of Brokilon dryads: "Que'ss aen que suecc'ss feal, caer me?"

"Our boat turned over..." breathed Loki. "Right at the shore... A terrible monster! I hit it with the paddle, but it chewed it up... It chewed up my paddle!"

"Who? What?"

"Geralt!" cried Braenn. "Geralt, Mona says that it's a cinarea!"

"An ilyocoris!" cried the witcher. "Eskel, go get my sword!"

"My wand!" called Dorregaray. "Radcliffe, where is my wand?"

"Ciri!" said Loki, wiping blood from his forehead. "Ciri is fighting it! She's fighting the monster!"

"Fuck! Ciri doesn't have a chance against it! Eskel! Get me a horse!"

"Wait!" Yennefer pulled down her tiara and threw it on the floor. "We'll teleport you. You'll be there sooner! Dorregaray, Triss, Radcliffe! Give us your hands..."

Everyone fell silent, then cried out loudly. In the door of the chapel appeared King Herwig, soaking wet, but whole. Next to him stood a bareheaded youngster in a strange shining armour. Behind them entered Ciri, water dripping down from her, she was all muddy, dishevelled, with Gevir in her hand. Across her cheek, from temple to chin, ran a deep, nasty cut, bleeding heavily through a strip torn from her shirt pressed to her face.


"I killed it," said the girl witcher in a weak voice. "I smashed its skull."

She staggered. Geralt, Eskel and Dandelion caught her and supported her. Ciri didn't let go of her sword.

"Again..." moaned the bard. "Again she caught it straight in her face... Why must she have such a damn bad luck..."

Yennefer shrieked loudly, pushed away Jarre, who was only standing in the way with just one hand, and grabbed Ciri. The sorceress, disregarding the mud and blood staining her dress, put her fingers on the girl witcher's face and shouted an incantation. It seemed to Geralt that the whole castle shook and the sun darkened for a second. Yennefer pulled her hands away from Ciri's face and everybody sighed in awe. The ugly gash narrowed into a thin red scar, marked with a few small drops of blood. Ciri sagged in the arms that held her.

"Well done," said Dorregaray. "A true Master's hand."

"Thanks, Yen," said Triss quietly and Nenneke started crying.

Yennefer smiled, rolled her eyes back and fainted. Geralt managed to catch her before she slid to the ground, like a soft silk ribbon.


"Calm down, Geralt," said Nenneke. "Don't get excited. It will pass in a moment. She just exerted herself a bit too much, that's all. And besides those nerves... You know how much she loves Ciri."

"I know." Geralt raised his head and looked at the young man in the shining armour, standing at the chamber's door. "Listen, son, return to the chapel. This is none of your business. And, just between you and me, who are you anyway?"

"I'm... I'm Galahad," replied the young knight. "May I... May I inquire how is the beautiful and brave maiden feeling?"

"Which one?" smiled the witcher. "There are two here, both beautiful, brave, and both maidens, though one of them is a maiden only by chance. Which one do you mean?"

The young man blushed visibly. "The younger one..." he answered. "The one who rushed to help the Fisher King without hesitatation."


"He means Herwig," Nenneke butted in. "The ilyocoris attacked the boat in which Herwig and Loki were fishing. Ciri threw herself at the ilyocoris, and this lad, who was nearby by chance, came to her help."

"So, you helped Ciri," the witcher looked at the young knight with more attention and gratitude.

"What's your name again? I've forgotten."

"Galahad. Is this Avalon? The castle of the Fisher King?"

The door opened and a pale Yennefer appeared, supported by Triss Merigold.


"We're going to the chapel," announced the sorceress in a quiet voice. "The guests are waiting."

"Yen... we can postpone it..."

"I will become your wife even if devils take me! And I will do it now!"

"And Ciri?"

"What about Ciri?" The girl witcher emerged from behind Yennefer, rubbing glamarye into the healthy part of her face. "Everything's all right, Geralt. It was just a stupid scratch, I didn't even feel it."

Galahad, his armour creaking loudly, knelt, or rather fell onto one knee.

"Fair lady..."

Ciri's big eyes widened even more.

"Ciri, allow me," said the witcher. "This is knight... hmm... Galahad. You already know each other. He helped you when you were fighting the ilyocoris."

Ciri blushed deeply. The glamarye began to work, so it was a beautiful blush and the scar was almost invisible.

"Lady," mumbled Galahad. "Be so kind. Allow me, o beautiful one, to stay... I desire... I desire..."
"Knowing life, I believe he desires to become your knight, Ciri," said Triss Merigold.

Ciri clasped her hands behind her back and bowed gracefully, still silent.

"The guests are waiting," Yennefer interrupted them. "Galahad, I can see that you're not merely a warrior, but a polite lad. You fought together with... my daughter, so you may offer her your arm during the feast. Ciri, go on, change into a dress. Geralt, you comb your hair and tuck your shirt into your trousers, because it's out. In ten minutes I want to see all of you in the chapel!"


The wedding was splendid. Ladies and maidens cried collectively. Herwig was the master of ceremony, a former king, but still a king. Vesemir from Kaer Morhen and Nenneke stood in as parents of the betrothed couple, Triss Merigold and Eskel as witnesses. Galahad accompanied Ciri and Ciri blushed like a peony.

Those who had swords formed an espalier. Dandelion's friends played their lutes and fiddles and sang a song composed for the occasion, being helped in the chorus by the red-haired Freixenet's daughters and the siren Sh'eenaz, famous near and far for her beautiful voice. Dandelion made a speech, wished the newlyweds much happiness, good luck, and a most successful wedding night, for which Yennefer rewarded him with a kick in the ankle.

Then they all rushed into the throne hall and besieged the tables. At the head sat Yennefer with Geralt, hands still bound with the wedding sash. They smiled and answered to the toasts and well-wishing.

The guests, who roared and rampaged themselves out the previous night, were having fun in a considerate and disciplined way - and for an admirably long time no one managed to get drunk. An unexpected exception was Jarre Onehand, who overdid it when he couldn't stand the sight of Ciri blushing under Galahad's sweet looks. Nobody disappeared either, except Kashka, who was soon found under the table, where she was sleeping on a dog.

The ghosts of Rozrog must have had enough from the previous night, because they showed no signs of life. There was only one exception in the form of a skeleton hung with the remains of a shroud, who suddenly appeared behind Agloval, Mousesack and Freixenet's backs. The prince, baron and druid were however so deeply absorbed in a discussion about politics, that they didn't even notice the apparition. The skeleton got very upset by this lack of attention, moved around the table and snapped its teeth at Triss Merigold. The sorceress, snuggled tenderly against the arm of Eskel from Kaer Morhen, raised her graceful hand and snapped her fingers. The dogs took care of the bones.

"May the Great Melitele favor you with her grace and blessings, loved ones." Nenneke kissed Yennefer and clinked her glass against Geralt's goblet. "But it took you a damn long time. Well, you're wedded now. I'm very happy for you, but I hope Ciri won't follow your example and that if she finds someone, she won't wait so long."

"I have the impression," waved Geralt in the direction of Galahad, enchanted by the girl witcher, "that she's already found someone."

"Are you talking about that odd character?" said the astonished priestess. "Oh, no. Nothing will come out of that. Did you take a closer look at him? No? Well then, look at what he's doing. For effect he's courting Ciri, but at the same time constantly examines and gropes at all the cups on the table. You must admit that it's not really a normal behaviour. I'm wondering why that girl looks at him like at a painting. Jarre, on the other hand... He's a reasonable, polite..."

"Your reasonable and polite Jarre has just fallen under the table," Yennefer interrupted her. "And now enough, Nenneke. Ciri is coming to us."

The ashen-hared witcher girl sat on the chair vacated by Herwig and cuddled up against the sorceress.

"I'm leaving," she said quietly.

"I know, daughter."

"Galahad... Galahad is coming with me. I don't know why. But I can't stop him, can I?"

"Of course not. Geralt!" Yennefer's eyes, glowing with a warm violet light, fixed upon her husband. "Go and have a walk around the tables and talk with the guests. You can also drink something. One cup. A small one. I'd like to have a talk with my daughter here, woman to woman."

Geralt sighed.

The party was getting more and more jovial. Dandelion's pals sang songs that caused Annika, Caldemeyn's daughter, to blush fiercely. A very tipsy dragon Villentretenmerth was hugging an even drunker doppler Tellico and tried to convince him that changing into Prince Agloval in order to replace him in the bed of the beautiful siren Sh'eenaz would not be a very friendly deed.

Freixenet's red-haired daughters jumped out of their skins just to please the royal messengers, and the royal messengers tried their best to impress the dryads, which in a way resembled a fun house. Yarpen Zigrin, snuffling with his hooked nose, explained to Chireadan that as a child he wanted to become an elf. Mousesack roared that the government would fall, and Agloval opposed him. No one knew which government they meant. Herwig was telling Gardenia Biberveldt about the great carp he caught on a rod with a horse-hair line, and the halfling nodded dreamily and only occasionally yelled at her husband to stop drinking too much.

On the cloisters, the prophets and the crocodile-trainer ran about, trying in vain to find the gnome Schuttenbach. Freya, clearly disgusted with the weaker men, drank helter-skelter with the female medium, while both of them kept a dignified and serious silence.

Geralt walked around the table, clinked his glass against the guests', proffered his back to friendly claps and his cheeks to friendly kisses. At last he came near to the place where the lonely Galahad was joined by Dandelion. Galahad, his gaze fixed at the poet's cup, mumbled something and the troubadour squinted and feigned interest. Geralt stopped and stood above them.

"... and so I got on this ship," Galahad was telling, "and I sailed out into the mist, even though I must confess to you, Master Dandelion, that my heart was clutched by terror... And I confess that I lost hope at times. I thought that my end had come, that I would die in that impenetrable mist... And then the sun came up, shone upon the water like... like gold... And then suddenly I saw before me... Avalon. This is Avalon, isn't it?"

"Not at all," argued Dandelion, filling their cups. "This is Schwemmland, which can be translated as Marshland... Have a drink, Galahad."

"And this castle... this must be Montsalvat, no?"

"By no means. This is Rozrog. I have never heard of Montsalvat in my life, son. And if I haven't heard about it, then it by no means exists. Cheers to the newlyweds, my lad!"

"Cheers, Master Dandelion. But that king... Isn't he the Fisher King?"

"Herwig? Oh he likes fishing, true. He used to prefer hunting, but then he was wounded in leg in the battle at Orth, and so can't ride a horse anymore. But don't call him Fisher King, Galahad. First, it sounds quite stupid, and second, Herwig might get offended."

Galahad said nothing for a long time, while playing with a half-empty glass. Then he sighed deeply and looked around.

"They were right," he whispered. "It's but a legend. A fairy tale. A fantasy. In short - a lie. Instead of Avalon a common Marshland. I'm out of hope."

"There, there," the poet jabbed at his side with his hand. "Don't fall into sorrow, boy. Why the damn melancholy? You're at a wedding, so have fun, drink and sing. You're still young, you have an entire life ahead of you."

"Life," repeated the knight thoughtfully. "How is it again, Master Dandelion? Something begins, or something ends?"

Dandelion shot a short, inquisitive look at him.

"No, I don't know," he replied. "And if I don't know, then no one does. The conclusion is that nothing ever ends and nothing ever begins."

"I don't understand."

"And you don't have to."

Galahad thought again, frowning.

"And the Grail?" he asked finally. "What has become of the Grail?"

"What is Grail?"

"It's something we're searching for," explained Galahad, setting his sad eyes on the troubadour. "Something that is the most important. Without which life has no meaning. Without which we're incomplete and imperfect."

The bard pressed his lips and looked at the knight with his famous gaze, a wise gaze mixed with a jovial honesty.

"You fool," he replied, "you've been sitting next to your Grail for the entire evening."


Around midnight, when the guests were already quite capable of entertaining themselves, and Yennefer and Geralt, freed from the feast, could eye each other in peace, the door flew open and into the hall walked the bandit Vissing, generally known as Loot-Cup. Loot-Cup was around two meters tall, had a waist-long beard and a nose of a shape and color of a radish. On one shoulder he had his famed club Toothpick and on the other he was carrying a huge sack.

Geralt and Yennefer had known Loot-Cup for a long time. Neither thought of inviting him, though. It was evidently Dandelion's work.

"Welcome, Vissing," said the sorceress with a smile. "It's nice of you to have remembered us. Have a seat!"

The bandit, leaning on Toothpick, bowed courtly.

"Many years of joy and a bunch of kids," he said loudly. "I wish you that, loved ones. A hundred years of happiness... But what am I saying, two hundred, damn it, two hundred! Ah, I'm so pleased, Geralt, and you, lady Yennefer. I always believed that you'd get married, even though you always bickered and fought like those, how to put it, dogs. Ah, damn, what am I saying..."

"Welcome, welcome, Vissing," said the witcher and poured wine into the largest cup he could find. "Drink to our health. Where are you coming from? Rumours were that you were sitting in jail."
"They released me." Loot-Cup took a big gulp and sighed. "They released me on this, how d'ya call it, damn... bail. And here I have, my dears, a gift for you. Here you go."

"What is it?" growled the witcher, looking at the huge sack, in which something wriggled.
"I caught it on my way here," replied Loot-Cup. "I caught him in the flower beds, where that naked stone woman is standing. You know, the one on which the pigeons shit..."

"What is in the sack?"

"Oh, it's just a, how to put it, a little devil. I caught him for you as a gift. Do you have a menagerie here? No? Well, you can stuff him and hang him in the hall, the guests can admire it. But I tell you, it's one hell of a liar. He keeps saying that his name is Schuttenbach."
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