|And to remind you of witchers who didn't shrink from robbery. Who didn't hesitate to work as hired assassins. Am I to remind you of the psychopaths who wore medallions with a cat's head, and who were also amused by the killing wrought around them?|
|- Harlan Tzara, Season of Storms|
School of the Cat is a school of ragtag witchers formed after a student mutiny against their former masters. Headquartered in the traveling Dyn Marv Caravan, they are apparently one of the few schools training women and non-pureblood humans.
The earliest witchers that can be seen as spiritual ancestors of the Cats were a group of between 15 to 20 members of the Order of Witchers. Following the unrest caused by Arnaghad's violence against a fellow Order member and the subsequent formation of the School of the Bear and Viper, disputes arose in the Order concerning what exactly constituted the basis and code of the witcher profession. The aforementioned group of over a dozen young Order members believed that they could improve the mutation process and build a better order on their own, surpassing their predecessor and commanding the respect of both the poor and the mighty of the Continent. They left Morgraig by night, stealing a significant collection of mutagenic compounds and alchemical tools.
The group, reportedly already under the symbol of the Cat, established its seat in Stygga Castle, a citadel in a remote mountain chain in Ebbing. From a new base of operation, the School of the Cat emerged not as a mere training facility, but a significant piece of the local political chessboard. To win various rulers' favors, masters of the school rejected the policy of neutrality, sending their disciples as spies, assassins, and swords for hire. The school seemingly earned the respect of local commonfolk as well; centuries after the School's collapse people of Pereplut bogs still respected witchers not only for slaying monsters, but also for dealing with local banditry.
Gezras' splinter group. Fall of Stygga
The School's success was only temporary. The efforts at creating improved, completely emotionless witchers went well at first; the first Cats created at Stygga were almost flayed of emotions, giving an impression of almost alien race. It was not enough for the mages, who worked on a new process, designed to dull the emotions of would-be witchers even more than usual. Apparently given free hand by the School's masters, the sorcerers caged a "failed batch" of students whose emotions were not dulled but enhanced and performed further tests (including vivisections) to derive a final solution.
Upon waking in a pile of discarded corpses, barely alive, a student named Gezras managed to crawl out and free those of "test subjects" that remained alive. Miraculously managing to escape, they found refuge among local a Aen Seidhe group who provided them with a safe sanctuary from those who still sought to abolish their past mistakes. In exchange, Gezras' group supported the elves in their guerilla fight. Cat assassins working for the elves only added to the already ill repute of Feline witchers, increasingly notorious in royal circles.
After a time, kings and queens began to take serious caution; likely not aware of the schism, they started to plan the assault on Stygga. As the royal armies amassed, the citadel was eventually infiltrated by Gezras' group who managed to strike at their misguided creators under the cover of night, slaughtering the mages as they slept. After they left, the old Cat witchers were alone to face the incoming forces. For three days the blood-soaked slaughter persisted, but eventually every last defending witcher perished.
Sated by revenge and free from the past, surviving witchers led by Gezras moved north, bolstering their ranks with renegades and badly mutated outcasts from other schools. They gathered together to form the Dyn Marv Caravan and rejected the heritage of the early School's Styggan founders as the nomad witchers saw their beginning in Gezras' group's escape from the mages.
Over the years, the traveling troop of witchers sold their skills to anyone who could pay, for any job. The caravan stayed at numerous hiding places where the mutations were performed, through warped, experimental methods. The corrupt Trials combined with aggressive disposition entrenched in adepts in various training camps, slowly earned them the disdain of other Schools.
"Cooperation" with the Wolves
At one point in late 12th century, Dyn Marv settled in Hertch, near the Summer Camp of the Wolf School. For some time since then schools of the Wolf and of the Cat were funded by Kaedwenian monarchs. The student exchanges took place and some older witchers befriended each other. However, a fraction within the school centered around its then-leader Treyse engaged in a plot against the Wolves together with King Radowit II's mage Astrogarus (unbeknownst to other experienced school members such as Guxart). Treyse became convinced that if they helped the Kaedwenis to kill off the Wolves, they would be given a special position within the new witcher order under the King's commands. Guxart and others without the knowledge of the plot were arrested by King's men so that Treyse's faction could proceed.
The plot turned badly – for both schools. Just after the Cats attacked the disarmed Wolves at the Witcher Tournament, the King ordered his men to kill off all the witchers, showing that the sole reason of the Tournament was to get rid of growing witcher schools. Treyse was among the ones who were shot.
As Guxart was released some time later, he was presumably the one to rebuild the school, on Radowit's condition that royal money would never be given to them again. Some of the Cats, presumably those who took the part in the plot, were forever banned from entering Kaer Morhen and other witcher resting places, denying them a place to spend winters in warmth.
Prior to 1272 the soldiers took the caravan. As reported by Joël, witchers Axel and Cedric were killed in the process, with Schrödinger's fate unknown. The School's final nail in the coffin came in 1274 when Lexandre betrayed his fellow witchers, commiting a murder and stealing the Grandmaster's diagrams.
While all signs in heaven and on earth tell us that School of the Cat has disbanded, there are people who speculate that some of the Cat witchers have started to return to their quarters, seeing that monsters are becoming a threat again. Who knows what the future brings?
Cat students hone their balance by walking a tightrope blindfolded. Failure is easy to shrug off at first, but throughout their training, the walk gets higher and the danger increases.
The Cats developed fighting styles focusing on speed, precision, and agility. One of these styles was Addan Aenye, created by the elf Nissail. As a result, Cat school witchers as well as their equipment do not deal a lot of raw damage, but can inflict deadly critical hits. By extension, their gear was designed to maximize flexibility and provide the greatest possible range of motion.
Because the Cats did not have a permanent home they performed their training wherever they could, even within human cities. The schools adapts would throughout their years of training hone their balancing skills by walking a tight rope while blindfolded. The walk would get higher as time went on building towards the final trial, where failure would be deadly.
The original founders ideals on which the school were created were lofty. They wanted to build a school which would surpass the Order and earn them the respect of the people of the continent. These ideals would be abandoned by the later Cats unfortunately. Because of their warped mutations and time among the Aen Seidhe, members of the Cat school proved as flexible in terms of morals and politics as their armor. Over time, they became pariahs even among their fellow witchers due to taking contracts on not just monsters but humans as well, with the latter going against the witchers' code.
As the School had no code of neutrality and Cats fought on the side of the Aen Seidhe during the race wars, Felines displayed a more favourable attitude towards the elves. Some were known to use the elven word: dh'oine, when refering to humans. The Schools founder, Gezras, was known to say he would "take a contract from an Aen Seidhe over a dh'oine any day."
Season of the Cat reward tree
This event allows to unlock the lore on this school and a cardback with the school's medallion.
- Scroll 1: Each witcher school holds a unique reputation. Bears – sulkers and firebrands. Wolves – traditionalists. And Cats? Prone to use steel swords more often than silver.
- Scroll 2: Unlike other witchers, those from the School of the Cat were not committed to a position of neutrality. As a result, they were often hired as spies and assassins. And it's no wonder – assassinating a nobleman usually paid better than slaying a drowner.
- Scroll 3: The ill repute of Feline witchers became increasingly notorious in royal circles. After a time, kings and queens began to fear in earnest for their lives. For the witchers, however, this came not as a point of pride, but one of concern, for rulers do not like to feel threatened...
- Scroll 4: One day, an army marched onto the grounds of the School of the Cat. For three days the blood-soaked slaughter persisted, but eventually every last defending witcher perished. As for those who were not present during the attack? They continue to roam the world's roads - embittered, hungry for vengeance, with nothing left to lose...
- Chest 1: Members of the School of the Cat are ill-famed due to their penchant for frenzy and bloodlust in the heat of battle. Even when their enemies capitulate, beg for mercy... They never stop killing. The inhabitants of Honorton learned this truth in the most brutal fashion. Instead of rewarding a Feline witcher for a contract fulfilled, they withheld their coin and skewered him with pitchfork instead. Gaetan – so was the monster slayer's name – survived the treacherous blow, yet the bloodshed did not stop there... The witcher slaughtered the entire village – men, women, children, the sick and feeble... It mattered not who had a hand in his betrayal. Only one survived the massacre, a young lass named Millie...
- Chest 2: What makes witchers from Cat school so cruel and impetuous? It is widely believed to be a side effect of their mutations. While emotions are suppressed in other witchers, the alchemical cocktail used in the School of the Cat had apparently intensified them. Before the error that tainted the formula could be corrected, it was already too late – a new generation of Feline witchers was born. A generation who would seize control of the School... And had no intention of changing the formula.
- Chest 3: Although Ciri trained at the School of the Wolf, she wore a Feline witcher's medallion. She had claimed it from the lifeless body of infamous bounty hunter Leo Bonhart. Bonhart had boasted that he was one of few to ever best a witcher in combat – and several at that – as evidenced by the three silver medallions fastened to his belt. The swordmaster never claimed a fourth, however, as Ciri spilled his blood over the cold cobblestones of Stygga Castle.
- Ciri claimed a Cat School medallion from the corpse of Leo Bonhart who had reportedly slain at least one of its members.