After collecting Geralt's possessions, walk to the front door of the palace in Vizima in order to fast travel to Velen at the Hanged Man's Tree. If you're up for some gwent, you can play the nobleman in the gardens, though he's tougher to beat than your first opponent in White Orchard.
Go to the Inn at the Crossroads
As Geralt rides up to the Hanged Man's Tree, several quests will have been initiated in the journal including: In Ciri's Footsteps, Pyres of Novigrad, and Destination: Skellige. These are all main quests in Act I and thus one can take their time getting to them. For now, follow the marker to proceed through Mulbrydale and across the river to the Inn at the Crossroads.
Note: Along the default route from Mulbrydale to the Crossroads, you will pass the start of two secondary quests: Funeral Pyres and At the Mercy of Strangers. Both quests are fairly quick to complete so this would be a good time to complete them.
Ask about Hendrik
When Geralt enters the inn he can either go straight into conversation with the Innkeeper to progress the quest or speak with the couple at a table nearby to learn a tidbit about the current ruler of this land he's arrived in. The innkeeper isn't too forthcoming with information about Hendrik and as soon as Geralt sits down to enjoy a drink the inn clears out and some of the Baron's thugs enter. Choose any of the following three options with the associated result:
- Back off or die: Causes the baron's men to become hostile and Geralt will be given the objective to defeat the baron's men. Additionally, more thugs will await outside but can be avoided by sneaking out the back door. The innkeeper will be upset that Geralt has caused trouble and possibly brought the baron's attention to their village but he will tell Geralt what he knows about Hendrik. Afterwards, either sneak out the back door to avoid more confrontation with the baron's men or go ahead and kill them all.
- I'm a witcher: Causes the baron's men to fear Geralt and they will leave him alone to finish his drink. The innkeeper will thank Geralt for not starting trouble with the baron's men and give up the information needed to find Hendrik. Afterwards Geralt can continue to question the innkeeper to learn some more tales about the bloody baron. However, if players repeatedly attempt to interact with the Baron's men at the Inn immediately afterwards or do any offensive maneuver in front of them, they will turn hostile and the game will proceed as if the player had chosen the first option.
- Care for a drink?: This will lead to a second choice and third choice where Geralt can choose to either pick a fight with the same result as option 1 or Geralt can defuse the tense situation leading to the same result as option 2. If Geralt does buy them a drink he won't actually pay any but some details about this land's current ruler, the bloody baron, can be gleaned from the conversation.
Note: Your actions with the baron's men here will affect how easy it is to gain entry to the Baron's fort at Crow's Perch during the main quest, Bloody Baron. None of your actions will make things impossible later on, but the nicer you are the easier it will be to gain access to the fort. It will also complicate matters at The Pellar's hut during Family Matters if Geralt reveals that he's a witcher to the soldiers outside as they will deduce that he was the one who killed their friends.
Look for Hendrik in Heatherton
Not far away from the inn is a town called Heatherton, which has recently been raided by the Wild Hunt. After fending off some rabid dogs attacking a man in the village, the man will tell Geralt what happened to the village and that Hendrik was singled out by the Wild Hunt and tortured for information before being killed.
Go into Hendrik's hut and search his body (particularly his boots) to find a key to the cellar. The cellar door is hidden under an animal skin rug which can be blown off using the Aard sign or by examining it. Once inside the cellar, activate the candle stick on a nearby wall to reveal a hidden trunk with Hendrik's notes which gives Geralt two possible leads on Ciri: the Bloody Baron at Crow's Perch and a witch near Midcopse. The quest will then complete and you can choose which of the two new quests you want to do first.
- Geralt traveled to Velen in search of Ciri, an act that attested to the depth of his devotion. Only a man who has been to this land can know just how vile it is. At this time it was commonly known as No Man's Land. Why? Well, the emperor of Nilfgaard had not yet claimed it, Temeria was in disarray, and the Redanians had already retreated north. No Man had been left in charge, and he had proved a terrible ruler.
- Geralt needed to find Hendrik, an imperial agent who had been working on Ciri's case, and to collect from him what information he had managed to gather.
- Yet it turned out Hendrick was no longer among the living - the Wild Hunt had murdered him. The spectral riders were also searching for Ciri and had beaten Geralt to the punch. The witcher only managed to obtain a few perfunctory notes about his ward, though thankfully these contained some scraps of valuable information. It seemed Ciri had been a guest of the Bloody Baron, the self-proclaimed ruler of Velen, and that she had quarreled with some witch, presumably the one living near the village of Midcopse.
- Travel to Velen.
- Go to the Inn at the Crossroads.
- Ask about the agent called Hendrik at the Inn at the Crossroads.
- Defeat the Baron's men (optional) Appears if you were hostile to them in the inn
- Finish talking to the innkeep about the agent called Hendrik.
- Look for the agent called Hendrik in the village of Heatherton.
- Talk to the survivor and learn what happened in the village.
- Find the agent called Hendrik.
- Search the agent's hut using your Witcher Senses.
- If the player chooses to resolve the situation with the Baron's men peacefully but talks to one of them afterwards while they're sitting at a table, they will turn hostile and attack. If the player then moves quickly enough, exits the inn and flees without killing any of the thugs, the Bloody Baron quest will still play out as if Geralt had killed them.
- In the original version of this quest Geralt was to light a fire under Hanged Man's Tree as a sign for Hendrik and come to Inn at the Crossroads where the two were supposed to meet. Baron's men arrived with agent as a prisoner - when he was on his way, they captured him. After being freed he told Geralt about leads in Velen. Heatherton attack happened because Hendrik's informer lived there.
- On the wooden gate into the village at the crossroads there is a missing poster for Tamara Strenger, Philip Strenger's (the baron) daughter. It offers a hearty reward to any who can rescue her from what is presumed to be a kidnapping. There is also another poster in the celler of Hendrik's hut.
- As you approach the Inn at the Crossroads you can overhear the conversations from several villagers seeming to prepare for an approaching group of thugs. One involves the slaughter of a pig to keep it out of the hands of thieves and the other is a villager that tells his daughter to flee into the woods. This fear is not unfounded as Geralt can later overhear the thugs threatening the man about what they'll do to his daughter if they do catch her one day.