Note: this quest will fail if not completed before starting The Isle of Mists.
If you wish, you can challenge the Vildkaarls separately in a sequence of three fistfights to earn more XP. These brawlers hit very hard and the second and third fighters are capable of countering the player if too many attacks are thrown. They always start off with a heavy punch when the player regains control so counter that and work from there. Undying can help from getting KO'ed. An easy tactic is to first counter then perform 2 strong punches and counter again, rinse and repeat. These fights must be completed before talking to Crach.
Once you go near to Crach's room a cutscene will play where Birna Bran barges through the door while appearing a bit mad. Geralt and Birna have a small chat with each other. Apparently, she is complaining about the king-choosing system (which consists of voting for the next king) and implies that Svanrige, Bran's firstborn, should be the next king instead. After a little while, she tells Geralt that she will be leaving Skellige tomorrow. Then, she goes her own way. Afterwards, talk to Crach An Craite to receive XP and a new sword, Fate.
After An Craite gives you the sword, you will see a small cutscene where the people scream "Lu-gos! Lu-gos! Lu-gos!" and then suddenly, screams and a few roars are heard. Hearing this, the witcher decides to investigate. Crach follows him and will aid him.
Following the massacre, Hjalmar and Cerys both decide to investigate this further. Geralt must make a decision to help Cerys, Hjalmar or neither. Whoever you decide to help will become the next ruler of Skellige after the following quest Coronation. If you decide to help neither, Svanrige will become King.
Side with Cerys
Use your witcher senses to search the hall. Once you search one of the remains of the bears Geralt discovers they are half-human half-bear, similar to werewolves and notices the mead they drank smelled odd. After finding the right container it turns out the mead contained some mushrooms and Geralt picks up a trail of the smell, so follow it and you will find a horn that contained it. Geralt will now call over Cerys and start conversing. She will confirm those so-called "humans" were berserkers. Geralt will show her the horn and she will propose talking to Hjort to find out which mushrooms were added to the mead. He will identify the mushrooms as "Mardroeme" and according to legends, they can turn people into animals. Geralt and Cerys agree that the mead must have been spiked before the celebration so she will lead Geralt to the wine cellar. Once there use witcher senses to find the right barrel. When you do someone will attempt to kill Cerys and Geralt by lighting up spilled Mahakaman spirit. Cerys will say there is another exit but it's hidden behind some barrels and there is no time to move them before they suffocate, Geralt will say he has no intention of "moving" them, you probably can guess he intends to use Aard to remove the obstacle so do just that. Now make a run for it through the secret passage which will take you to a Quen Place of power.
Important: This is the only way to reach this place of power, if you go with Hjalmar or decide not to get involved you will not earn this skill point. Also this is the only way to find the true culprit, so helping Cerys is the best option for both roleplaying and character development.
Once you are back in the castle Cerys will propose checking the cellar entrance as the "pyromaniac" must have used the same entrance, while Geralt will mention hearing a bottle being dropped. When you reach the door you will discover that someone stepped inside some mead leaving a trail so follow it. Once the trail ends you will find a piece of thread on the wall. Cerys will recognize the owner as Arnvald. He is the one that escorted the player to the feast hall. He will try to run away on a horse so a chase ensues. If you manage to strike him with your sword he will fall off the horse and you will catch him, if not you will have to track him only to find his corpse and then be forced to search his room. Or if you chase him all the way he will reach some warriors from the Tuirseach clan who will decide to kill him instead of helping him as requested, in this case you will have the chance to save his life. Regardless Cerys will realize that the mastermind is Birna Bran. If he is alive Arnvald will testify and give her letter to him, however it bears no signature nor seal, if not you will only have the letter, regardless the evidence is insufficient, however her son Svanrige Tuirseach will step in and ask her why did she ask him to leave the celebration early right before the attack took place. She will admit then and be sentenced to death by thirst and starvation after being chained to a rock. Cerys however will become the first queen of Skellige. If you go to the shore north of Sund you will be able to see the Jarl's made good on her sentence.
Side with Hjalmar
Hjalmar will take Geralt to Fornhala where the Vildkaarl reside as he was witness to them turning into the bears that attacked, so clearly it's time for some payback.
While going along the path Hjalmar will point out a body. If you examine it you will find an altar of Svalblod, a forbidden God which demands human sacrifices. Soon Geralt will pick up some smell, so follow the trail. The smell will lead you to a body, blood stain. He will finally find new footprints which are your new trail. The prints will lead you to a house with interesting decorations and a hidden hatch in the floor. Enter the hidden entrance and soon you will hear some strange noises. Next you will meet Hallgrim. After a short conversation you will have to fight him. Once he is injured enough he will transform into a bear and the fight resumes. After the fight ends keep pushing forward. Soon enough you will see a cutscene where a strange ritual takes place, and a Druid is present there. Now you need to ask the Druid on what is going on. The Druid in question is named Artis and he will refuse to tell who is behind the attacks and you are forced to fight him and a bear he calls. Once he is dead you find a letter revealing he would become the new kings advisor for causing the massacre, but you gain no lead on the true culprit. However, it does clear the An Craite from dishonor and Hjalmar will be crowned king for his deed.
- With Geralt's help, both Hjalmar and Cerys had defied death and won glory, greatly improving their chances in the race for Skellige's throne. Crach decided the news was an excellent excuse to host a great feast, during which skalds would sing the praises of the young an Craites and tables laden with mead and meat would sway those islanders who were still undecided, convincing them to support this generous and powerful family. Geralt was also invited to the celebration, where he was to receive a token of Crach's gratitude.
- A Skellige saying holds that at a good feast, blood and mead flow in equal measure. Sadly, it seems someone took the saying literally and orchestrated a terrible massacre during the banquet at Kaer Trolde. Between the third and fourth courses of roast ram, massive, enraged bears suddenly appeared amidst the merrymakers. Before the hooch-dazed warriors could draw their weapons, the animals tore dozens of guests to shreds, including most of the claimants to the throne.
- Geralt managed to save most of the other attendees, but could do nothing to stop the torrent of accusations and calumnies directed at Crach once the dust had settled. The other jarls accused him of conspiring to put one of his own on the throne. If an Craite could not prove his innocence, his family would forever lay buried beneath a mountain of shame.
- Hjalmar and Cerys immediately took action, each in their own way. If he wanted to investigate how the massacre had come to pass, Geralt would need to choose which an Craite to support.
If Geralt decides to help Cerys:
- Geralt decided to help Cerys. This was not surprising - her calm and systematic approach to the matter bore a strong resemblance to how the witcher himself conducted investigations.
- Their thorough investigation led Cerys and Geralt to an unexpected discovery. It turned out Arnvald, the an Craite family's hitherto faithful servant, had had a hand in the massacre. It was he who spiked the mead with the blood and herbs that caused certain guests to transform into bears. It was he who then tried to kill Geralt and Cerys in a most underhanded manner when they were close to finding him out.
- Arnvald tried to save his life by fleeing, but he did not get far - for Geralt, accustomed to chasing down griffins and wyverns, outrunning a clumsy and panicked rider proved no challenge. Cerys interrogated him adroitly and got from him the identity of his patron. It turned out the culprit was none other than Birna, King Bran's widow and mother to one of the claimants to the throne, Svanrige.
- Birna was tried by a council of jarls. Though Geralt and Cerys presented damning testimony against her, for a moment it seemed the sly widow would escape justice. In the end, the final nail in her coffin was pounded in by her own son, Svanrige, who sensed her lie at once when she denied the accusations. Birna was given the sentence she deserved and disgrace covered the name of the once-proud Tuirseach family.
If Geralt decides to help Hjalmar:
- In the end Geralt decided to help Hjalmar. Like him, the witcher felt there was no time to go over everything with fine-toothed comb - they had to act now, while the trail was still fresh.
- Geralt rode off with Hjalmar to the Vildkaarls' village located in the wildest Skellige highlands. Young An Craite was convinced these mysterious warriors had transformed into the bears that massacred the Kaer Trolde feast goers. It turned out his intuition had not led them astray. Geralt found a hidden passage in the village leading to a vast cavern. When they entered it, the whole gruesome riddle unraveled before their very eyes...
- The dark legends about the Vildkaarls were true. Geralt and Hjalmar saw this for themselves when they got a hidden peek at a terrifying ritual in which a man who wished to join the ranks of this bizarre warrior society let a bear devour him alive. Geralt tried to get the druid who conducted the ceremony to tell him who was responsible for the Kaer Trolde massacre. The druid refused to answer - and Hjalmar showed that it was vengeance more than testimony that interested him. He killed the druid, who took the knowledge of his patron's identity with him to the grave.
- Though Hjalmar was not able to uncover who stood behind the massacre at Kaer Trolde, the testimony he and Geralt provided clearly showed the hosts had not had a hand in it, and that those murdered during the feast had been properly avenged - thus clearing the an Craite family name of all suspicion. Crach and his children were still far from safe, however - the traitor responsible for the bloodshed remained at large, uncaptured and ready to strike again.
- Report to Crach en Craite to collect your reward. (500 and the silver sword, Fate)
- (Optional) Defeat the Vildkaarl. (100 and Hjalmar's Steel Sword. A second set of brawls can be initiated afterwards which rewards another 50 for each of the three opponents you have to fight in a row, totalling 150 )
- Defeat the bears. (300)
- If Geralt decides to help Cerys:
- Examine the crime scene using your Witcher Senses.
- Examine the traces of mead around the crime scene using your Witcher Senses.
- Find the source of the scent using your Witcher Senses.
- Ask Hjort to have a look at the mead sample.
- Follow Cerys to the cellar.
- Examine the cellar.
- Examine the mead in the open barrels.
- Flee from the burning cellar.
- Follow Cerys through the tunnel.
- Look for tracks around the cellar door using you Witcher Senses.
- Follow the footprints using your Witcher Senses.
- Look around for a clue using your Witcher Senses. (300)
- Catch Arnvald.
- Chase Arnvald. (200) + (400 and Death from Above for helping Cerys)
- [Alternatively] You can let Arnvald escape and you need to follow the tracks left by Arnvald's horse outside Kaer Trolde using Witcher Senses.
- Search Arnvald's body.
- Return to Kaer Trolde.
- Go to Arnvald's room.
- Search for evidence in Arnvald's room using your Witcher Senses. (200) + (400 and Death from Above for helping Cerys)
- If Geralt decides to help Hjalmar:
- Talk to Hjalmar.
- Explore the Vildkaarls' village using your Witcher Senses.
- Examine the place Hjalmar pointed out using your Witcher Senses.
- Follow the scent using you Witcher Senses.
- Follow the footprints using you Witcher Senses.
- Explore the cave. (200)
- Defeat Hallgrim.
- Venture further into the cave.
- Interrogate the druid.
- Defeat the druid and the berserkers. (200) + (500 and Death from Above for helping Hjalmar)
- If you resolved Udalryk's curse in Possession by fighting rather than tricking the Hym, Drogodar the bard at the feast will still sing the ballad of Cerys having tricked the Hym and chatter amongst guests will tell the same incorrect version of events. However, tricking the Hym will result in Drogodar singing about Cerys fighting and Ultimately killing the Hym.
- If you have completed Cave of Dreams prior to this quest and have chosen to help Cerys, she will acknowledge your helping of Blueboy Lugos.
- If you chase but don't catch Arnvald until his escape rendezvous point you will have to fight a group of Seamen from Clan Tuirseach who are waiting to double-cross him.
- If Roach is equipped with a fast enough saddle, Arnvald can be knocked off his horse very soon into the chase. Doing so avoids the fight at the rendezvous point and, since Arnvald isn't killed, the search of his home is avoided as the simply gives Geralt the incriminating letter.
- Choosing Cerys is your only chance to access the nearby Place of Power. If you choose Hjalmar you won't be able to access it.
- There's a small chance for Cerys to get stuck in front of the cellar's doorway, resulting in her blocking the entrance. This usually occurs due to the player bumping into her before she enters the next room. If this happens, a reset to the previous checkpoint is a must, as you will not be able to progress further.
- The title is a reference to a chess opening move of the same name.