- Geralt of Rivia
- Triss Merigold
- Tissaia de Vries
- Artorius Vigo
- Fringilla Vigo
- Sabrina Glevissig
- Adda the White
Geralt takes on another Witcher's unfinished business in a kingdom stalked by a ferocious beast. At a brutal cost, Yennefer forges a magical new future.
In Temeria, a monster is killing local workers. One such worker's son, Mikal, lies dying from severe gashes, recounting the story of a monster coming out on the full moon to attack him. A witcher named Remus offers to kill the beast for 3,000 orens up front. The worker pays his fee, pooled from several other workers who had suffered attacks, and when he turns back to Mikal he finds him dead from his injuries. While the worker mourns, Remus sets out to kill the monster, but is killed by it instead.
Meanwhile, Geralt of Rivia has just finished using the services of a prostitute, who tells him that Remus passed through there on his way to Temeria. Concerned over the rumor that Remus vanished with the gold, Geralt then sets out after Remus, vowing to pay back his debts to an innkeeper when he returns. He leaves Roach behind as a deposit.
When Geralt arrives in Temeria, he finds the workers on the brink of revolt. He offers his services to them as Remus did, and although they accuse Remus of swindling them, Geralt claims to take his pay after the job is done and at a third of the price. Geralt also offers his apologies for Remus' behavior, and nearly wins them over, until Ostrit arrives with several soldiers. He demands the workers disperse in exchange for not charging them with treason, and tries to persuade them that vengeance will not ease their pain, but they simply storm off angrily. Ostrit then has Geralt escorted out of Temeria.
En route, Geralt's guards all fall asleep and tumble off of their horses. Triss Merigold then reveals herself, and hires Geralt to free the monster of a curse. Triss explains that they managed to identify that the attacks were emanating from the crypt where Princess Adda was buried. There were rumors that she was with child, and if true, then that child would be the sole heir to the Temerian throne, indicating that this monster might be Adda's cursed unborn child.
Geralt initially presumes the creature to be a vukodlak, but Triss dismisses it. She brings him to examine several corpses and offers 2,000 orens to identify the monster that killed them. After examining Remus' corpse, Geralt surmises that Triss covered up his death to hide the fact that the monster had actually defeated a Witcher. On further examination, Geralt discovers that Remus is only missing his heart and liver; only a striga, a cursed female, has eating habits that selective. Geralt then identifies that it is Adda's daughter, a princess, who has turned into a monstrous striga.
Geralt is then brought before King Foltest, where Triss Merigold pleads with everyone to enlist Geralt's help. One of his courtiers, Segelin, is suspicious however, wondering who would possibly want to kill Adda, to which Geralt brought up her "lover". This gives Foltest pause even as Segelin dismisses this, so Triss argues to simply open up the crypt so that they can investigate. Segelin continues his tirade, claiming that Geralt would simply kill the "princess," at which point Geralt describes in detail how a striga is horrifically mutated into a creature of the night. When he goes so far as to call it an "overgrown abortion," King Foltest orders everyone out.
As people begin to leave, Geralt throws Segelin out and bars the door, interrogating Foltest over who the father of the striga is. He wants to know why Foltest never married, why he did not simply kill the striga and produce his own heir, driving to the point that Foltest himself sired the striga with his sister in an incestuous relationship. Enraged, Foltest says that Geralt must be devoid of all emotion to accuse him of bedding his own sister while simultaneously advocating that he kill his own daughter. As his guards break through the door, he halts them and simply orders Geralt to leave and never return.
Rather than leave as bidden, Geralt and Triss sneak into the crypt and discover letters from the Sancia of Sodden, Adda's mother. The letters urged Adda to stop being involved with Foltest, so they bring the letters to Ostrit with their suspicion that the queen herself cursed Adda. Ostrit suspects that Foltest in fact raped Adda, and that Foltest cursed her to cover it up. Geralt nearly buys this story, until he mentions that Ostrit's scent was "on her sheets," having smelled the bed in the crypt.
Fingered as Adda's illicit lover, Ostrit claims that his actions of cursing Adda's child were justified. He could have simply exposed the incest, but he never wanted to hurt Adda, and was distraught when his curse killed her. He now seeks to keep her memory from being "sullied," and refuses to tell Geralt how to lift the curse. In response, Geralt simply knocks him out.
Geralt goes to the crypt to lift the curse, but finds Foltest himself standing before the entrance. Thanks to Triss' advice to trust Geralt, Foltest gives Geralt his blessing to save the striga. He asks if his daughter will be normal, to which Geralt says she will need rehabilitative care due to her early life spent as an animal. Geralt then leaves a gift with Foltest; for the striga, in case the curse is lifted but Geralt dies in the process.
Within the crypt, Geralt has Ostrit tied to the same bed where he had relations with Adda, where the striga can reach him. Geralt refuses to release him until he reveals how to lift the curse, and although Ostrit eventually does so, Geralt breaks his word and leaves him to die. Ostrit begs, blaming Foltest and assuring the striga, who he was responsible for cursing, that he loved Adda. The striga kills him anyway.
Geralt is now faced with the task of keeping the striga out of her crypt until dawn to successfully lift the curse. His fight initially goes well, thrashing the creature around the decrepit castle, but it manages to close to grips with him and pin him down. In response, Geralt collapses the floor beneath them, crushing the striga in falling rubble.
After recovering, Geralt gets up and places a magical barrier over the entrance to the striga's crypt. When the striga runs for it, it is slammed bodily aside. Geralt then puts on some brass knuckles and punches the striga out, going into its crypt himself to keep it from getting inside. It screams in futile rage before finally disintegrating into a young girl, the curse lifted. When Geralt goes to touch her however, she embeds the last of her claws into his neck, and he bites her before passes out from blood loss.
Geralt awakens after having been healed by Triss. She tells him that King Foltest fabricated a story about how Ostrit bravely sacrificed himself to kill the striga, and that the miners would build a statue in his honor while in reality, the uncursed striga would go elsewhere for rehabilitation. Although Triss asks why Geralt continually spoke Renfri's name in his sleep, he only insists on taking his money and leaving. Triss gives him his money, returning his gift to the striga as well.
Further in the past, at Aretuza, Yennefer and Istredd are having sex before an illusory audience. Afterward, they are concerned about being separated, due to Istredd being sent away for excavation of ruins while Yennefer is bound for Aedirn, her old homeland. Yennefer is also concerned about what she wants to look like when she is enchanted into a new person, and when Istredd prompts her, she says she only wants to go back to Aedirn and not be the frightened girl that she once was.
Meanwhile, a conclave of senior sorcerers, including Tissaia de Vries and Stregobor, discusses their concerns over Cintra refusing to use their court wizards. Cintra prefers Druids instead, and outright bans all mages from the kingdom; Princess Calanthe also opposes the influence of mages. Another issue is that Nilfgaard is ruled by the lecherous King Fergus, who spends his money on women while people starve.
Tissaia assures Stregobor that Fringilla Vigo, one of her apprentices, will be assigned to Nilfgaard to deal with the problem, but he objects due to her incompetence. He urges that Yennefer be sent there instead, but Tissaia insists that Yennefer would best thrive in Aedirn due to being a native, which the local king prefers. Stregobor counters this by saying that Aedirn is Cintra's largest trading partner, and that sending a quarter-elf, which Yennefer is, to work with Aedirn would further ostracize Cintra due to their fierce hatred of the elves.
This argument immediately convinces a majority of the chapter against sending Yennefer to Aedirn, seeking to prioritize returning Cintra to the fold above all. Tissaia then strikes out with an accusation of cowardice in Stregobor and an accusation of nepotism, sparing his niece Fringilla a difficult job, in Artorius Vigo. Artorius recuses himself after that accusation, but opens it up to a vote of the entire chapter, who overwhelmingly vote against Tissaia, ensuring that Yennefer would be assigned to Nilfgaard.
When Yennefer learns this, she angrily turns on Tissaia, saying that Fergus would rather "fondle his sorceress than listen to her". She accuses Tissaia of being overruled, and Tissaia reveals that it was because of Yennefer's elven blood that she was reassigned. Yennefer initially thinks that Tissaia revealed it, but Tissaia confirms that it was in fact Stregobor who brought it up, leading Yennefer to realize that Istredd revealed her secret to Stregobor.
Eventually Istredd catches on to the fact that Yennefer figured out his betrayal. He apologizes for his actions, even offering to take her with him on his research position, but she calls it "slow suicide" and rejects him. Istredd accuses her of simply being angry about not getting to become beautiful, to which she angrily says it is "what I am owed." Although Istredd cautions her that it will not be fulfilling, she rushes off anyway and gets the enchanter, Giltine, to agree to make her beautiful, even forsaking any sleeping and pain-numbing agents to get it done as quickly as possible.
While the ball is underway to match sorceresses with kings, young Foltest and Adda are seen fondling each other, as their mother scolds them to knock it out. While this happens, Yennefer undergoes her painful transformation, including a procedure that will leave her infertile by removing her reproductive organs, which are then used to create a magical paste which, when applied to her skin, begins the transformation. Her spine violently straightens, her jaw forcefully corrects itself, and her entire body takes the shape of an attractive woman, but not without immense pain during the process.
Afterwards, Yennefer then dons a dress and arrives at the ball as a completely new person, with members of the brotherhood and Istredd immediately taking notice. The king of Aedirn also notices her and, when Yennefer introduces herself as from Aedirn's capital of Vengerberg, the king discards Fringilla in favor of her, despite Tissaia trying to step in to stop Yennefer. Stregobor, Tissaia, Artorius, and Istredd all then look on in anger as Yennefer and the king dance.
Back in the present, Ciri awakens in a forest surrounded by snow. She falls under a spell, and walks mindlessly into Brokilon, home of the dryads. Dara, seeing Ciri walk through Brokilon's corpse-strewn border, tries to follow her but ends up shot by a dryad arrow as an entranced Ciri doesn't notice this and continues into the sacred forest.