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"Before a Fall" is the seventh episode of Netflix's The Witcher series and is based on the short story "The Sword of Destiny".

Characters

Summary

With the Continent at risk from Nilfgaard's rising power, Yennefer revisits her past, while Geralt reconsiders his obligation to the Law of Surprise.

Geralt's timeline

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Calanthe's assassins trying to kill Geralt

Out near the Amell Pass, Geralt sees the Nilfgaardian Army marching, and correctly deduces they're heading for Cintra and hastily makes his way there and meets Mousesack to inquire if his Child of Surprise is safe. Mousesack then reveals the Child of Surprise is a girl named Cirilla, having been raised by Calanthe after Pavetta and Duny died at sea years ago. After Geralt remarks on what he saw at the Amell Pass, Mousesack tries to tell Geralt they're well prepared but is cut off when Geralt hears people moving in the underground tunnels, and the witcher almost rhetorically asks if the queen also sent assassins. He then investigates the tunnels where two of the assassins briefly show themselves before disappearing. Having his answer, Geralt takes Mousesack as a hostage and shield, forcing all eight assassins to come out in the open. As the assassins close in on the pair, and not wishing to die in the crossfire, Mousesack casts a portal to teleport him, and therefore Geralt, to safety.

Meanhile, Calanthe and Danek are inspecting the Cintran Army's equipment as they discuss Nilfgaard, believing they won't dare attack Cintra but to prepare themselves as always. Eist is also expected to return that same day from his trip to Skellige, with 50 of the country's ships in tow to aid in their fight. Right after, a teleported Mousesack and Geralt approach, and an incensed Calanthe notes she warned Geralt not to come back as her guards draw their swords. Geralt informs her he hadn't planned to until she sent the assassins. The two then have a heated discussion, where it becomes clear Calanthe is trying to protect her only surviving relative, having already lost Pavetta, though Geralt promises he'll take Ciri and protect her, then bring her back once the Nilfgaardian threat is over. Coming to terms with this, Calanthe announces the Law of Surprise has been called and that she'll tell Ciri herself.

A short time later, Geralt enters the castle where he's given an audience once more with Calanthe, who's in the process of telling a crying Ciri that Geralt is meant to take her away as Mousesack looks on. Geralt greets Ciri but she remains silent to him, turning instead to the queen to ask if she can say goodbye to her friends and her grandmother agrees before the young princess heads off. Calanthe then tells Geralt she'll summon him once Ciri has said her goodbyes and is ready to leave.

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Geralt realizing it's a decoy

With that, Geralt leaves the room and heads down the hall but appears to be magically drawn towards the underground tunnels, which he proceeds to follow all the way to the end before exiting out a side door, just in time to see Ciri running over to a group of children playing knucklebones and saying goodbye to them. However, as she finishes, she bows towards the last one and calls them "Your Highness", revealing the one Geralt met was merely a decoy and the real princess was the one dressed up as a peasant outside.

Angry at this deception, Geralt confronts the queen and tries to convince her he's only trying to protect Ciri, to which Calanthe retorts the last time she listened to him, she let a hedgehog into her court which led to Pavetta dying at sea as a result, and Ciri is safe as they have an army and navy to defend against Nilfgaard. No matter what Geralt says though, Calanthe won't change her mind and Eist, having returned from his trip, appears just in time for his wife to tell him to get Geralt out of her sight.

Eist then leads Geralt out of the castle and to the nearby gate as Geralt questions him on why he no longer honors the Law of Surprise. Eist merely responds having a granddaughter changed that and reveals that Calanthe was extremely grief stricken after the initial loss of her daughter, but having pulled herself through that, he's confident in his wife's decisions to their final days. After Geralt notes he can't promise he won't try to come back if he believes Ciri's ever in danger, Eist has the witcher trapped between the 2 metal gates in the archway.

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A dead queen

A few days later, Cintra is now being razed by Nilfgaard while an unarmed Geralt is meditating in a cell. On hearing the chaos, Geralt manages to grab a passing knight, knock him out, and grab the cell keys off him, before rearming himself and making his way out of the castle. However, he immediately comes under attack from Nilfgaardian soldiers but quickly takes them out and watches from behind a wagon as more soldiers storm the keep. As he continues to watch, a sudden thud is heard and when he looks around the wagon, he sees a now dead Calanthe. At this, Geralt storms back into the castle to find Ciri, killing every Nilfgaardian soldier he comes across as he goes.

Yennefer's timeline

In Nazair, Yennefer visits an archaeological dig site and is immediately asked by two Nilfgaardian officers if she has a safe conduct letter to visit, which she hands over and answers their questions regarding her visit. Satisfied, the officers head off just in time for Istredd and Yennefer to spot each other, with the former greeting the sorceress. Istredd then shows Yennefer around as he talks about his work there: excavating a magnalith that was inaccessible until Nilfgaard took Nazair by force. However, Istredd notes he doesn't care how it's done, only that he can do his research, particularly regarding a prophecy and the future.

As the two sit together at a makeshift tavern, Yennefer then reveals she'd like to rekindle their relationship, including the "boring" life Istredd offered back at Aretuza that she'd originally rejected. When Istredd questions why him when she could have anyone, she reveals she has had others, but all they saw in her was her power in court as a king's mage, rather than her own magical powers. The two kiss but Istredd then breaks it off, revealing he'd spent years wishing for them to be back together, including ways to study in Aedirn when Yennefer was there to try and get closer to her, but Yennefer at the time shut down all his requests. Eventually, Stregobor convinced Istredd to focus on work instead and over time Istredd came to terms with not being with Yennefer anymore as they wanted separate things in life. He then gets up and leaves Yennefer alone at the table.

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Vilgefortz introduces himself

However, no sooner did he leave than another man, Vilgefortz, immediately took the vacant seat. Mistaking him as someone trying to pick her up, Yennefer told him to leave her alone but Vilgefortz noted he didn't have much time to talk, revealing Nilfgaard was conscripting mages into their service and, as both of them were there illegally with no legit safe conduct letters, they needed to get to Aretuza. As Yennefer laughed at the idea, Vilgefortz remarked while the Chapter saw her as "rash, unpredictable and dangerous" it was what Tissaia de Vries and Vilgefortz needed and Tissaia had even told Vilgefortz that Yennefer was "the best student she ever taught."

Back at Aretuza, Yennefer meets Vilgefortz along with two other mages, but notably Tissaia isn't present. Vilgefortz then brings up Nilfgaard and how they believe Nilfgaard's going to attack Cintra, but Yennefer quickly dismisses this, noting she doesn't care about that and asks where Tissaia is. Vilgefortz tries to tell her the rectress can wait but, unperturbed, Yennefer sets out to find her only for Vilgefortz to inform her Tissaia actually doesn't know she's there. Angry at being misled, Yennefer sets off through the school, only to storm into her old room, surprising the three students inside. After waylaying her sudden appearance, she takes the girls to the greenhouse to learn other uses for the herbs they're studying that aren't taught in school, noting to the trio to think for themselves before having them experience hallucinations from the mixed herbs. During this hallucination, the girls reveal the Chapter felt they needed students from the "best" families, allowing parents to buy their daughter's way in, even if they never had a Conduit moment.

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Aretuza's windmill

As the girls show hesitation at what they're learning with the herbs, fearing expulsion, Yennefer notes there's far worse things and takes them to the underground water pool below Aretuza. As one girl asks to know more, Yennefer reveals that they're sterilized and therefore can't have families, ensuring loyalty only to the Chapter, and all for a disappointing life. As another girl more firmly notes they shouldn't be there and that they won't mess up like Yennefer did, Yennefer then reveals what happens to those who don't ascend, showing the eels in the water. Just as she does, Tissaia interrupts and sends the girls away.

Yennefer then confronts Tissaia but they see groups of mages urgently heading off somewhere and Tissaia quickly follows. Yennefer spots another face in the group, Triss, and calls out to her, who reveals it's an emergency conclave as Nilfgaard is attacking Cintra.

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Fringilla insisting they're just after Cintra

In the meeting room, there's a clear divide even among the Northern mages: Stregobor and Artorius are ok with Cintra falling, while Vilgefortz and Tissaia wish to save it, noting if Cintra falls, Nilfgaard will continue after the rest and is a threat to their way of life and magical practices. As they argue, suddenly the meeting is interrupted by none other than Fringilla, who helps the Nilfgaardian emperor. As Triss points out all the wrongdoing Nilfgaard and its mages do, such as conscripting mages and practicing forbidden magic like necromancy, Fringilla waylays these concerns before issuing a warning: if the mages there won't pick sides, then they should at least stay out of Nilfgaard's way as they only wish to take Cintra. The conversation then turns to Stregobor and Artorius making jabs at Yennefer for what she did years ago before the conclave calls a vote, resulting in the majority of the mages in favor of letting Cintra fall.

After the meeting, Yennefer and Tissaia talk in private and the rectress reveals a small group of mages that wish to stop Nilfgaard from encroaching any further north are planning to fight at another spot that Nilfgaard is sure to try and attack. Yennefer still shows scorn, not caring for the school and its recent practices, but Tissaia asks if she won't fight for the brotherhood, to at least do it for her.

Ciri's timeline

Now alone, Ciri makes her way through a village where she poorly attempts to steal food as she tries to make her way to Skellige. Overhearing this, a nearby woman, Zola, warns Ciri to be careful as it's not safe traveling through the area alone, but Ciri rebuffs this as she's become accustomed to it by this point and walks off.

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Zola trying to convince Ciri to go with her

As she passes a group of people watching a puppet skit being put on, she spots some gloves but before she can run off with them, the seller calls to her and she hands over an expensive ring that once belonged to her mother as payment. She then discards the worn out single glove she had and puts on the new ones as Zola approaches her, trying to talk her out of going to Skellige as the roads aren't safe while Ciri tries to walk off from her again. Unperturbed, Zola gets in front of Ciri to stop her and notes she just needs to finish one more errand and make room on her horses, Clip and Clop, but could offer Ciri food and a safe place to stay at her home. Ciri silently nods in agreement, but as soon as Zola heads off to finish her tasks, Ciri steals one of the horses and takes off.

Now night time, Ciri's set up a small campfire out in a field with the stolen horse nearby when she hears the sudden approach of people. Initially wary, Ciri grabs a branch to defend herself but recognizes one of the four men as Anton, one of the kids she played knucklebones with. She runs forward, happy to see him, but he rudely pushes her aside as he notes to another he knew it was her at the market before they run over to the horse and start to pilfer the bags. As Ciri tries to tell them to stop, another pushes her back, noting Nilfgaard has a nice reward for her. She then tries to plead to Anton, who reveals he never liked her, only playing and letting her win because he had to all because she was a princess. As the group then proceed to pull her to the center of the clearing, Ciri releases another magical pulse, this time with another voice speaking through her of a prophecy before a scream is heard.

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