|And the lord barons and village elders have their heads full of the war and don't have the time to defend their subjects. They have to hire us. It's true. But from what Triss has been telling us all these evenings, it seems the conflict with Nilfgaard is more serious than that, not just some local little war.|
|- pg. 57, Blood of Elves (UK edition)|
Eskel was a witcher of the School of the Wolf taught by Master Vesemir at Kaer Morhen and active in the 13th century. As the sorceress Triss Merigold noticed, Eskel emanated a strong magic aura. Though less famous than his peer Geralt of Rivia, Eskel became renowned in his own right as a professional, reliable witcher, and possessing a kind and relaxed disposition.
Eskel and the White Wolf were like brothers. Side by side they grew up, enjoyed pastime activities and endured the Trials. A good friend of younger Lambert and Coën of Poviss, Eskel saw Vesemir as both a mentor and a father figure. He returned to Kaer Morhen each winter to swap tales and rejuvenate for The Path.
Under unknown circumstances, The Witchers' Settlement in the Blue Mountains eventually became his home. He befriended Geralt, a peer who gradually turned into his almost-brother. Together they relished in childish delinquencies. Once, Eskel and Geralt had captured a huge forest bumblebee and tied it to a jug. Watching its antics, the two had fits of laughter until Vesemir had caught and punished them with a leather strap.
Tirelessly studying all sorts of creatures, trainees got to hear teachers repeat jokes about virgins and unicorns or basilisks and mirrors, quickly finding all unamusing. The one they found most primitive—infinite versions of how a young witcher shook his hand with a female dragon. To become full-fledged witchers, the youth had undergone murderous and painful Changes together, the Trial of the Grasses which changed their physiology, granting them, among other things, cat-like vision in the dark. Young Eskel feared for his friend's life when Geralt's hair turned white as a side effect of the Trial, though both managed to beat the odds and survive it together. They trained on The Trail. Leading around the Kaer Morhen through dangerous obstacles, it was generally known as "The Killer".
The Child Surprise
In the late 1210s, Eskel saved a prince of Caingorn in a dire struggle with a werebbubb gang and was offered anything he wanted as a reward. Given such a wide-open choice, he could not think of anything and instead recited the fabled Law of Surprise "give me that which you find at home yet do not expect" that he had heard Vesemir repeat over the years.
This is how Princess Deidre Ademeyn born during an eclipse became his surprise child. Avoiding responsibility, Eskel took great pains to evade going back. Taking ridiculously long routes to avoid the proximity of Caingorn, he had heard about Deidre maturing into a highly unpredictable lass. Plus she discovered an innate gift of obstructing magic in her area, all superstitiously interpreted as "accursed mutations of the Black Sun". To determine what it all meant, Eskel carried a collective work about the phenomenon. He surmised the Council of Wizards meddled too much into state affairs, botched it and, had they not sent Sabrina Glevissig, Ademeyn might not have become ostracized.
When she sought asylum around 1242,[N 1] Vesemir hosted her and Eskel busied himself with a kikimore hatchery in the old mine outside Kaer Morhen while devising a solution and where Geralt found him and the two discussed the situation. In a way, Eskel cared and didn't want to pass her to Glevissig who, bursting with unproven conclusions, wished to kill and study Ademeyn. After heading back, Vesemir called his pupils to present ideas. Eskel, unsure, asked Geralt for guidance.
If the witchers chose not to help Deidre: The witchers decided not to help her, and Deidre went into a rage, almost fatally attacking Eskel before fleeing, with Sabrina stepping in to heal Eskel's wounds, though unable to remove his deep facial scars. She requested the witchers leave it for her to find and deal with Deidre. It is unknown if the witchers allowed this, but for the next two years, the notorious and murderous outlaw Deidre terrorized southern Kaedwen. Eventually she was hunted down and killed, either by Sabrina and her allies or a mysterious man with a terribly scarred face who refused to collect the bounty that had accumulated on her.
If the witchers chose to help her: A scuffle between Ademeyn and her younger brother Merwin Ademeyn, Glevissig's misguided ally poised to rule, caught Eskel inside. Accidentally, the princess slashed the witcher across his face, but deeply regretting it, she subsequently left, resolving the entire matter. Several years later she sent him a letter with her royal seal upon it, but Eskel put it into a fire without reading it and never spoke of her again.
Though the witchers of Kaer Morhen never spoke of her again, none of them forgot her either, each carrying her memory in their heart.
Early autumn 1264 had seen Eskel return again for the winter. A certain day, he went to close the main gate to stop heat from escaping when Geralt brought Ciri. Eskel embraced the Wolf and though he was skeptical at first, he nonetheless agreed with Ciri's training. He welcomed the girl at Kaer Morhen and took her luggage. Asked who else was inside besides Vesemir, Eskel responded with the names of Lambert and Coën, their mate from the School of the Griffin. Following months, Eskel helped Ciri train. He was worried, however, by her trances induced by an accidental sip of White Gull.
The third trance scared the witchers most, so they sat down. Eskel, who couldn't withstand the silence, swore and stood up to bring a bottle of something strong. Listening to Coën and Geralt, he took a vodka. Vesemir was furious about the booze in the beginning but later beckoned Eskel to pour him a pint. After more silence, Eskel came up with an idea to summon a witch. When Lambert mocked Ciri's latest prophecy by stating witchers are likely to die by monster teeth, he added dental gangrene may be another interpretation, seemingly serious. Vesemir hushed both, saying they shouldn't joke about it.
They decided to call Triss Merigold who arrived near Midinváerne of 1265. The sorceress noticed Eskel emanated potent magic when he bowed and politely took her hand to kiss it. Initially suspicious she could be poised to reveal witchers' secrets to the Brotherhood of Sorcerers, Merigold convinced Eskel of having no such intention. He had a good relationship with Merigold altogether. When she had comments on how witchers treat Ciri, he listened. After determining what to do about Ciri, Merigold told the witchers about the situation in the Northern Kingdoms. Early on, Eskel asked several questions but ceased to as it turned into a dispute about neutrality.
On the Path
Before 1267, Yennefer of Vengerberg visited Kaer Morhen and Eskel met her. As the Second Northern War had neared its end, Eskel was in the vicinity of Brenna. After the massive battle of Brenna, he asked about Coën, who had fought for the North. Not only did he learn the jolly friend's fate, but Eskel retrieved a silver sword once held by Coën, though not the one he had at Brenna. The sword retrieved would then be displayed in the main hall of Kaer Morhen.
He never gained Geralt's renown, even though he equaled the White Wolf in experience and skill. Despite that, Eskel has made a name for himself as an efficient witcher, learned in his trade. One of his recognized heroics was when he saved a little girl from a basilisk, splitting it down the stomach and getting her out. He wasn't paid due to the fact he was wandering those lands hunting zeugl. He didn't avoid adventures either, as he had slept with a succubus and took fisstech with her. During warmer times at Kaer Morhen, Eskel would go out to drive back harpies.
Two attacks on Kaer Morhen
One day before Belleteyn of 1270, Eskel and Lambert were both at Kaer Morhen and were supposed to repair one staircase, which they postponed. A day later, Eskel and Vesemir were out hunting in the woods and found the unconscious Geralt, till then considered dead, not far from the keep. They loaded him on a cart and while his friend laid exhausted, Eskel explained how nobody knew where he disappeared following the Rivian Pogrom. Reassuring amnesiac Geralt that all would be well, they brought him to Lambert and Triss Merigold back at the keep.
Shortly thereafter, Azar Javed and the mysterious Salamandra struck. Eskel, like all his comrades, defended the keep. Splitting, Vesemir assigned Eskel and Lambert to help him battle Savolla's frightener. Nevertheless, the thugs got the upper hand. Witchers retreated into the upper courtyard, where Merigold blamed Eskel and Lambert for not repairing that staircase as it could have helped the defense. When she also said Salamandra may be there for witcher mutagens, Lambert was skeptical but Eskel supported her. Though he helped slay the frightener, the bandits got away with the mutagens.
After they burned the murdered trainee Leo on a funeral pyre, the witchers split up to seek information. Eskel took western direction as he had contacts there and preferred coast climate. Before leaving, Eskel gave Geralt valuable advice on fencing and alchemy.
Bounties in 1271
Through the year that followed the defeat of the mastermind behind Salamandra, Jacques de Aldersberg, Eskel had several contracts. He pierced a fogler, fought a red-skinned insectoid or flamed four wraiths. Next, he had been hired to deal with a hypnotic samovila but left after the peasant who paid fell in love with her.
About six months before the clash with the Wild Hunt, Eskel was suddenly ambushed by a Manticore in the forests of Creyden, the beast moving so quickly it didn't set off his medallion. He was injured in the exchange, receiving a sizable scar in the process, but slew the beast and took its head to the closest village's elder. Unfortunately there was no contract on the Manticore's head, and the village elder swore on all the gods it was the first he had heard of the monster, thus Eskel didn't receive any payment for it.
On a search for a katakan more than a century old and liable to kill drunkards, Eskel had to stalk the opponent for a month before dealing the final blow. Including trying to trap it a masquerade ball held by the nobles to attract the vampire, during which he took the time to enjoy the company of a number of the ladies there. He eventually managed to trick it into drinking blood from a woman he convinced and paid to be heavily intoxicated with substances that would weaken it. After that he managed to kill it with ease and took its carcass back to Kaer Morhen with him. Proper examination of the vampire's body parts, he believed, could lead to discovering a new witcher method of age determination based on footsteps.
Clash against the Wild Hunt
Eskel was out pursuing a forktail in the fall of 1272 as the draconid needed to be removed and Yennefer lacked organs to distill ingredients required to disenchant Uma. After Geralt tracked Eskel down, Eskel agreed to let the White Wolf join the hunt and the two talked about recent events going on in their lives before tracking and following the forktail to its lair and finishing it off. Then Eskel mounted his horse and the two made their way back to the keep with a friendly horse race.
Inside, Eskel showed Geralt the katakan specimen and began its autopsy. Later on, as Yennefer started the transformation process on Uma, Eskel was noticeably troubled by Uma being put through the Trial of the Grasses and eventually walked off from it. Though he did return and brought some rags to help clean the floor, and Yennefer after she prompted him, as Uma had vomited on her during the Trial. After Yennefer broke Uma's curse and went to rest, Eskel sat with Lambert to share anecdotes and drink when Geralt joined them.
- If Geralt opts to get drunk with the rest: Getting increasingly drunk, the three swapped stories, played a drinking game, gwent and dressed as the Lodge of Sorceresses in the hopes of inviting them to Kaer Morhen for some fun. Fiddling with Yennefer's megascope even produced a brief contact with Hierarch Cyrus Engelkind Hemmelfart of Novigrad. Hence the sorceress of Vengerberg stormed in and stopped the charade. Eskel had to return her the clothes taken.
As Eredin Bréacc Glas realized Ciri was on Kaer Morhen, he attacked and Eskel partook in the ensuing battle. He defended the inner courtyard of the keep. After Caranthir opened a portal and brought a few riders of the Wild Hunt through, Eskel dueled Caranthir, holding his own expertly, until Caranthir utiilized his teleporting, which almost cost him his life. Luckily, this did not happen as fate smiled upon him—Ciri saved his hide. Caranthir retreated after being called away, but not before he ordered his troops to kill the two. Eskel and Ciri then killed the warriors and continued to fend off the Hunt.
Suddenly, icy coldness tore through holes opened by the Wild Hunt, freezing Eskel in motion. He only unfroze after Eredin and the Aen Elle warriors vanished, ousted by Ciri's outbreak of power in the wake of Vesemir's death, with the power of the outbreak causing Eskel's ears to bleed while he was frozen.
In the battle's aftermath, Eskel bid a last farewell to his valiant master. Unable to imagine Kaer Morhen without Vesemir, he decided to watch over the Witchers' Settlement until winter 1273 and return to the Path for an unknown amount of time. Direction—Lormark. He supposed its warlike undertone would provide ample work opportunities.
In July 1267, Ciri experienced a pyromantic vision with a fraction of it showing Eskel and other witchers led onto a scaffold. She had seen Eskel again in a different vision after entering Tor Zireael. When recounting the story about Yennefer, Geralt and herself to Galahad, Ciri changed the end to a happy one, telling the naive knight from another world that, after the pogrom, a splendid feast took place with Eskel in attendance.
Elsewhere, bard Dandelion introduced a ballad Bitter, Evil Hearts, chronicling the tale of Eskel and Ademeyn. A story about how Eskel saved the little girl from a Basilisk made it into A Few Remarks on Basilisks and Cockatrices, a book containing useful knowledge for beast hunters. Decades on, by the 14th century, he had become a part of various iterations of the legend of the White Wolf and the witcher girl.
Appearance and personality
|Ciri looked up into his face and barely restrained her frightened scream. He wasn't human. Although he stood on two legs, although he smelled of sweat and smoke, although he wore ordinary human clothes, he was not human. No human can have a face like that, she thought.|
|- pg. 39, Blood of Elves (UK edition)|
The Wolf witcher had a menacing, metallic voice that sounded like a dog's barking to Ciri when she first heard it. The most prominent feature of his visage was a long, hideous, semi-circular scar running from the corner of his mouth across the length of his cheek up to the ear. It got itchy when he was nervous or embarrassed. Minus the scar and hair color, Eskel and Geralt resembled one another like true brothers. Eskel's hands emanated powerfully with magic, with more power than the White Wolf's. This triggered pleasant, piercing vibration in mages.
Eskel was calm, patient, stable, thoughtful and polite. Even when he disagreed wholeheartedly with a topic, he feigned politeness and interest in the matter. What betrayed him in such situations was avoiding eye contact. He enjoyed drinking and laughing with friends. Quite self-aware, he had no delusions about his appearance but that didn't hinder him from smiling. His fitting, mature behavior, especially when it came to Ciri compared to the other witchers endeared him to Triss Merigold. Vesemir prized Eskel's reliability.
- The calm and reasonable witcher is my peer. We are similar in many ways and people often think we are brothers.
- All witchers have a great deal in common, but with Eskel and Geralt, the similarities are particularly striking. They first met as two boys of the same age swinging wooden swords at Kaer Morhen. They then went though an ordeal together: the first round of selections, the murderous Changes, the Trial of the Grasses, and training on the Gauntlet - the witchers' daunting obstacle course. They also received hidings together for more than one act of childish delinquency. When they became adults, they walked the Path separately, but still reconvened at Kaer Morhen nearly every winter to wait out the cold, drink to their successes and remember fallen comrades.
- Though Eskel never gained Geralt's renown, he equaled the White Wolf in experience and carried out his contracts with care and efficiency. Death had almost taken him many times during his hunts, yet in an ironic twist the hideous scar on his face came not from a monster claw but from the blade of Deidre Ademeyn, his highly unpredictable Unexpected Child.
- Perhaps this traumatic experience lay at the root of Eskel's dislike for Yennefer, though he tried not to let this get in the way of friendship with Geralt.
- Eskel took active part in the defense of Kaer Morhen, standing bravely in the face of overwhelming odds to fight one of the Hunt's generals. When Vesemir died, he took over responsibility for watching over the witchers' keep.
- Kaer Morhen
- The Battle of Kaer Morhen
- No Place Like Home
- To Bait a Forktail...
- Ugly Baby
- Blood on the Battlefield
- The name "Eskel" derives from Old Norse "Ásketill", formed from áss "god" and ketill "cauldron" or "helmet". This may be linked to Andrzej Sapkowski's penchant for foreign-sounding names.
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
- The Last Wish
- The Lady of the Lake
- Blood of Elves
- The Price of Neutrality premium module
- Szpony i kły
- The Witcher
- A Fractured Land: Tales of the Northern Realms
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - The Sword Of Destiny trailer
- Time of Contempt
- The Tower of the Swallow
- Gwent: The Witcher Card Game
- Behind the Names: Ásketill
- "KUL 1998" – 1998 Interview with Andrzej Sapkowski
- See the GWENT standalone game version card: Eskel