Without a Trace is a secondary quest in the Hearts of Stone expansion.

Walkthrough

To start this, you must pick up the contract off of Brunwich's notice board, then make your way to Otto Bamber, the herbalist at the Herbalist's Hut just outside Oxenfurt. Talk with him and he'll tell you his apprentice, Folkert, has gone missing near Deadwight Wood and hasn't come back. There's no way to haggle here, so just accept the quest to continue.

With that, head out to the marker and use your Witcher Senses to inspect the wagon just off the road, then the blood trail nearby, going north. The foliage here may make it hard to track the blood trail, but you should be able to make out it's going north until it stops just outside Erde village.

The village, however, is rather empty: you can inspect the hut to the right of the gate for months' old blood stains, but other than that there's nothing else to do but talk to the elderly couple. You can mention the blood stains, but they'll wave it off as that's where they prepare their meat as it's abandoned and it's much nicer than being outdoors. Regardless, when asked about Folkert they'll say he was attacked by wolves but they told him to go back home as they didn't want trouble and he must have been killed out in the woods by the pack as he was intent on picking herbs.

You can now either return to the herbalist with your news (for all 200 Oren3.png but only half the XP earned based on the Story and Swords! difficulty level) or head towards the eastern gate (right next to the couple's hut) for Geralt to pick up the smell of rotting meat. If you want to investigate this, follow the smell with your Witcher Senses to a hidden cellar door, blast away the debris, and enter to find a chopped up body. Examining it will determine that it's Folkert, but his cause of death is impossible to determine.

Return to the couple and confront them about this and they'll say that he'd been killed by the wolves and they merely collected his body (and others) to eat as they're too weak to farm but must find food somehow. However, there's no way to determine what's the truth or not in this situation so you have two choices now: let them live (making them swear they won't eat people again) or kill them. If killed, you can loot strange meat off the wife and the hut's key off the husband to enter their hut for minor loot (the interior door doesn't unlock).

Whatever you choose, now return to Otto to inform him what happened, whose response will vary depending on what you did to the couple and what you tell him, though no matter what you'll get the full XP earned based on the Story and Swords! difficulty level and 200 Oren3.png, completing the quest.

Journal Entry

"Witcher" has become a synonym for "monster slayer" in many minds. While accurate as far as it goes, this does not encompass the whole truth, for witchers take on a broad variety of other tasks besides the slaying of monsters. For example, they sometimes use their superhuman senses to find missing persons. Such a lost individual was the subject of the notice hung by a certain Otto Bamber, an herbalist residing near Oxenfurt.
Otto told Geralt his apprentice, Folkert, had not returned from an herb-gathering excursion to the Deadwight Wood. Though this was not at all on Geralt's way, he decided to help the desperate herbalist. Something tells me this was not merely on account of the reward on offer – though those knowing only Geralt's surface from ballads and rumors might find this hard to believe, deep down, he was really a softy.
If Geralt does not investigate further:
Geralt did not in fact find Folkert, but witness testimony allowed him to establish the halfling's fate. The young halfling had so badly wanted to bring his master the herbs that he had ventured deep into the woods, braving the wolves that hunted there. Though no body ever was found, it is not hard to guess what had become of the poor lad.
If Geralt chooses to kill the old couple:
Geralt found Folkert -- carefully gutted and salted and hanging in a larder belonging to an elderly couple living near the woods. The couple swore they hadn't killed the young halfling, but the witcher did not see that this absolved them of their crime and reached for his sword.
If Geralt choose to let the old couple live:
Geralt found Folkert -- carefully gutted and salted and hanging in a larder belonging to an elderly couple living near the woods. The couple swore they hadn't killed the young halfling and had been forced into cannibalism by famine. Though Geralt condemned their actions, he decided punishing cannibals was not his duty and walked away.

Objectives

  • Talk to the herbalist.
  • Look for Folkert's tracks in the Deadwight Wood using your Witcher Senses.
  • Follow the blood track.

If you didn't investigate further:

  • Ask the inhabitants of the village about Folkert.
  • Report back to the herbalist.

If you caught the scent of rotting meat:

  • Follow the scent to its source using your Witcher Senses.
  • Search the room.
  • Interrogate the peasant couple.
  • If you decide to kill the couple:
    • Kill the peasants.
  • Report back to the herbalist.

Notes

  • If you outright killed the couple, if you return later to Erde alghouls will be there and Geralt will remark on this fitting situation.
  • If you told Otto the truth but didn't kill the couple yourself, on returning later to Erde there'll be alghouls and the couple's been killed, leaving Geralt to remark that Otto had been serious about his threat.
  • If you let the couple live and lied to Otto, on returning to Erde the husband will be grieving, as his wife died from hunger.
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