The story opens with Geralt in a fetid sewer in Aedd Gynvael, fighting a zeugle. After dispatching the beast, the sorceleur heads back to the auberge where he and Yennefer have been staying. She greets him with "You stink!" and demands that he bathe immediately, in cold water. Once the sorceleur is sufficiently cleaned up, the magicienne magically dumps the water from the bath out the window, outraging a passerby. The two get to talking about the fact that Istredd has moved to town and that Yennefer has been not only working with him, but also sleeping with him. Geralt is quite obviously jealous of this.
That said, the sorceleur still has business to conclude and leaves to find find Herbolth, the alderman who hired him to kill the zeugle, and claim his reward. However, before he can approach the alderman, he is stopped by Ivo Mirce surnommé « la Cigale », a mercenary who happens to be working as a bodyguard for the alderman. Mirce eyes the sorceleur's sword enviously as he "confiscates" the weapon — for reasons of security, of course. The usual formalities ensue with Herbolth cheating the sorceleur out of the previously agreed sum.
After that business is concluded, Geralt heads over to Istredd's home. The magicien explains to the sorceleur that he loves Yennefer and wants to marry her. Geralt tries to convince him that this is unwise because he and Yennefer are meant for each other. The magicien accuses him of being delusional, calling the sorceleur merely a toy for the magicienne. Geralt is incensed and suggests that it is Istredd who is being used. It's clear that the two cannot settle things by talking it through so they decide that they should settle things with a manly and honourable duel.
Back at l'auberge, Yennefer and Geralt argue some more about their relationship and about Yennefer and Istredd's relationship, but they resolve nothing.
Herbolth gets wind of this plan and tracks Geralt to l'auberge where the sorceleur is now sulking and drinking. The alderman throws down a purse with the originally agreed sum for the zeugle, and tells the sorceleur to take the money and get out of town — now. He explains that the city cannot afford to find another magicien and that Istredd is far more useful to them than a sorceleur. He also explains that he can't simply throw the sorceleur in a dungeon as Istredd would never agree to such a breach of honour. Geralt suggests that the alderman pray for Istredd then and refuses to change his plans and leave. The alderman is exasperated and tells the sorceleur that they can go ahead and kill each then, for all he cares.
After leaving l'auberge, Geralt is set upon by bandits, one of whom he recognizes from a dark corner of l'auberge earlier. The would-be thieves soon discover that they have chosen the wrong victim when one of them grabs the sorceleur's medallion. Needless to say, they don't stick around. Geralt decides to spend the night in the stables rather than go back to l'auberge and Yennefer. During the night, he receives a message from the magicienne, delivered by a bird.
The next morning, Geralt sets off for his appointment with Istredd but is once again accosted by la Cigale and his men. Mirce is intent on fighting the sorceleur, but Geralt is having none of it. Insults fly back and forth until finally the sorceleur looses his patience and punches Mirce in the mouth, knocking him into a mud puddle. He then decides to punch him again and finally finishes him off with a good swift kick. Ivo is left humiliated and bleeding in the mud.
Geralt continues on his original path to meet the magicien for their duel. He soon learns that Istredd also received a message from Yennefer, by bird-messenger and that his message was the same. The magicien readies his sword, his chosen weapon as using magic against a mere sorceleur would be dishonourable. Geralt, however, refuses to fight, bids the magicien good-bye and leaves.