The Last Wish (book)
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Cover of the American edition of The Last Wish
|Original title||Ostatnie życzenie|
Published in English
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Followed by||Sword of Destiny|
The Last Wish (Polish: Ostatnie życzenie) is the first of the two collections of short stories (the other being Sword of Destiny - Miecz przeznaczenia), preceding the main Witcher Saga, written by Polish fantasy writer Andrzej Sapkowski. The first Polish edition was published in 1993, the first English edition in 2007. The book has also been translated into several other languages.
The collection employs the frame story framework and contains 7 main short stories; Geralt of Rivia, after having been injured in battle, rests in a temple. During that time he has flashbacks to recent events in his life, each of which forms a story of its own.
The Voice of Reason
Głos rozsądku - frame story
The Voice of Reason begins with Geralt, slumbering, awakened by the entrance of Iola, who proceeds to make love to him. Afterwards, he falls asleep. Here Geralt dreams of his encounter in Wyzim with a striga ("The Witcher"). In the morning, he is woken up by Nenneke, the priestess of Melitele. He is in the Temple of Melitele in Ellander. Iola leaves, with Geralt musing that in the early morning, she reminded him of Yennefer. She talks with him, worried that he was horrifically injured by a normal striga. Geralt and Nenneke argue about Geralt taking part in a trance. Geralt argues that his inability to be hypnotised and his lack of faith makes it pointless. Here, the second short story, "A Grain of Truth" is introduced.
Afterwards, he meets with Count Falwick and Sir Tailles, both knights of Order of the White Rose. They are here to chase Geralt from Ellander in the name of Prince Hereward. Geralt says he will leave after three days. Falwick tells him to leave immediately. Geralt and Tailles almost come to blows when the latter insults Nenneke. Tailles and Falwick leave, warning that they will be back (at this point, the third short story, "The Lesser Evil"). Later, he meets Iola, and carries a monologue explaining himself to her (she unable to talk due to a vow she has made). At the end, he muses on his destiny (introduces the short story, "A Matter of Price").
Some time later, Dandelion, a poet friend of Geralt arrives. Together, they reminisce on times gone past, of how Geralt's profession as a witcher is growing less and less profitable. Finally, they reminisce on their first adventure ("The Edge of the World"). Geralt talks to Nenneke about Yennefer, wishing to give some of his payment to her. Nenneke dismisses it, and asks him how he met Yennefer. He recounts to her the story ("The Last Wish").
When Geralt and Dandelion venture out of the temple, Geralt is waylaid by Falwick and Tailles, accompanied by a lot of lancers and the captain of Hereward's guards, a dwarf named Dennis Cranmer. They explain Geralt's options to him. If he does not accept Tailles's challenge, he will be hanged. If he touches Tailles with his sword, he will be dragged to Hereward to be tortured. Geralt chooses to fight, and causes Tailles to hit himself with his own sword. Dennis Cranmer, stating that he obeys his orders to the letter, allows Geralt to go, as Geralt did not actually touch Tailles. Geralt chooses to leave, and just before he leaves, when he touches Iola's hand (Iola was bringing him his box of elixirs) she has a vision of him. Geralt dismisses it, saying he's seen it before, and leaves. Nenneke says goodbye, but does not look him in the face.
The story begins with Geralt entering Vizima. Shortly afterwards, he kills three men in a bar fight. He is escorted to Velerad, the elderly castellan of Vizima. Near the beginning of King Foltest's reign, he got his sister, Adda, pregnant. Both Adda and her baby daughter died shortly after birth and were buried together in a double coffin. Seven years later, the daughter awoke and slaughtered the inhabitants of the palace. She had become a striga.
Geralt meets with Foltest, who warns him not to harm the striga, for a wizard had told him that if someone prevented the striga from returning to her coffin by the third crowing of the rooster, then she would be cured, turning into an ordinary little girl. Geralt asks to see a miller (a survivor of one of the striga's earlier attacks). The soldier that brings him to Geralt is Foltest, disguised. He gives Geralt leave to kill his daughter if he found that she was an incurable case.
Geralt spends the night at the old palace (Foltest having moved to a new palace, unplagued by the striga's attacks). During the early night, Lord Ostrit, a magnate, tries to bribe Geralt into running away, as he wishes the striga to survive. This would eventually horrify the inhabitants of Vizima, who would more easily support Vizimir of Novigrad's rule. Geralt refuses, knocks Lord Ostrit out, and ties him up. At midnight, he cuts Ostrit loose, using him as bait. He is soon found and killed by the striga.
Geralt fights with the striga, reluctant to use his silver sword. He ties the striga with a silver chain, which she breaks free of, despite silver being an antithesis to monsters of magic. She is eventually scared off when Geralt uses his sorcery to project the hate and malice in her own mind back at her. Geralt settles down in the double coffin to wait for morning. In the morning, he sees an ordinary little girl who is lying on the floor. Leaning over her, he sees too late that her eyes are open. Using the last remnants of her talons, the striga slashes Geralt's throat. As he subdues the girl/striga, Geralt hears the third crowing of the rooster. Finally, he binds his neck, knowing he will faint.
The witcher wakes up, his neck bandaged, with Velerad (who was part of the group that had planned to just have the striga killed) admitting he was in the wrong. He assures Geralt that his silver sword, his three thousand oren reward and his possessions are safe. Geralt, soothed, falls asleep.
A Grain of Truth
While travelling through the forest, Geralt comes to the corpses of a man and a woman that seem at first glance to have been killed by wolves, but the wounds tell a different story. Looking closer, Geralt notices that the woman has a blue rose pinned to her dress.
Heading in the direction the pair must have come from, the witcher arrives at a seemingly deserted mansion, in front of which he sees a strange woman who runs from him. The owner of the house, a beast called Nivellen, allows our hero to enter his house, which is enchanted to obey his every whim, and in the end tells Geralt his story: coming from a line of robbers, Nivellen at some point was cursed by a priestess to be a beast in human form until some conditions are fulfilled, something related to blood and love. So for some time, Nivellen has tried to undo the curse by entertaining relationships with different women, all merchant daughters, but to no avail.
Before departing, Geralt warns Nivellen of his newest lady friend, Vereena, who may be a rusalka (water nymph that lures men and children to their deaths). Somewhere along the road Geralt realizes what it was his horse sensed at Nivellen's manor and returns promptly to warn him, but is greeted by Vereena, who turns out to be a bruxa (a vampire-like creature that uses song to knock people out) and a fight ensues.
In the middle of the fight, just when Geralt gets overwhelmed, Nivellen shows up and joins the fight. At some point during the fight, Nivellen impales the bruxa on a pole, enabling Geralt to finish it off. But before the final blow is struck, Vereena confesses her love for Nivellen, which breaks the curse.
The story ends with the key to the curse: "There is a grain of truth in every fairy tale," said the witcher quietly. "Love and blood. They both possess a mighty power. Wizards and learned men have been racking their brains over this for years, but they haven't arrived at anything, except that-
"Except what, Geralt?"
"It has to be true love."
The Lesser Evil
On the eve of market day, Geralt rides into Blaviken with a kikimore-carcass in tow. He seeks out Caldemeyn, the town's alderman, to try and get a reward for the dead critter. He's out of luck, though, and Caldemeyn suggests throwing the carcass in the local cesspool. However, one of the alderman's staff, Carrypebble, mentions that the local wizard, Master Irion, might fancy a look at the creature. All agree it's worth a try and head to Irion's tower to find the mage.
Master Irion is far more interested in Geralt than in some kikimore carcass, however. When Geralt steps inside the tower, he steps straight into an illusion. Finding the wizard surrounded by a veritable garden of Eden (complete with a naked, young woman casually picking apples), Geralt recognizes the man as Stregobor, a mage whom he'd last seen in King Idi's court in Kovir, and not "Master Irion" at all. The wizard explains that since he is occupying Irion's tower, that it seemed a fitting tribute to call himself by that name. It also did not hurt to conceal his true identity.
After a few pleasantries, Stregobor finally gets to the point. He pleads for Geralt's help claiming that a "monster" is pursuing him, seeking to kill him. After a little bit of prodding, the wizard confesses to Geralt that the monster is in fact a young woman, whom he says was born under the Curse of the Black Sun. Geralt scoffs at the idea, calling it absurd. Stregobor begs the witcher to help him, to kill the girl saying that she is far more of a monster than the kikimore the witcher recently slew. He insists that it would be "the lesser evil" to kill her. Geralt refuses, and leaves.
Meanwhile, Renfri has entered Blaviken along with her band of miscreants. Geralt meets them all in the tavern and is about to be drawn into a fight when Renfri herself steps in. She asks Geralt to hear her out, and while they are at it, to let the alderman know of her plans. She proceeds to explain that she bears a letter from King Audoen which essentially makes her and her band untouchable. Caldemeyn confirms this.
That night, when Geralt withdraws to his attic room at Caldemeyn's home, he finds Renfri has beaten him there. They talk, the young woman proceeds to tell the witcher her life story. She also compares Stregobor to the kikimore that Geralt brought into town, saying he is a worse monster and offers Geralt the same deal Stregobor did: choose the lesser evil, kill the other, receive any reward within reason.
Geralt refuses, again. He pleads with Renfri to forgive Stregobor, to prove the wizard and the alleged Curse were wrong. She refuses but before she leaves, she gives the impression that she and her band will leave town peacefully, possibly to meet Stregobor somewhere else for a final showdown. Then, she and Geralt make love.
In the morning, during breakfast with Caldemeyn and his family, the alderman casually mentions Tridam, which immediately piques the witcher's interest as Renfri had specifically mentioned a certain "Tridam ultimatum" the night before. When Caldemeyn relates the full story, Geralt suddenly realizes what Renfri's real plan is, and that she is not in fact preparing to leave town at all. She plans to use the fact that the local mage in any given town is duty bound to do what he can to protect the town, so she plans to massacre the townsfolk in the marketplace to draw the wizard out.
Geralt races immediately to the marketplace and finds Renfri's band sizing it up. He chooses to engage them in battle rather than wait for them to fulfill their plan and start killing the townsfolk. Renfri is not with them as she is trying to lure Stregobor from his tower, but she has left a message for the witcher, one final plea to side with her. Civril decides to finish off the witcher with a swift crossbow bolt but is surprised to learn that the witcher can deflect these in flight with his blade. He then orders the band to close ranks and charge the witcher as one. Their plan is quickly and decisively thwarted by our hero and Renfri only returns in time to see the last of her men fall. She reveals that Stegobor ignored her ultimatum, telling her to do as she will to the townsfolk. She then confronts Geralt and they cross blades.
When it's all over, Stregobor approaches the witcher, intent on performing an autopsy on the girl's body, to prove his theory that the Curse was the cause. But, surprising even himself, Geralt refuses to let him touch her body. Stregobor leaves telling the witcher that he's free to follow, just as the towsfolk begin hurling rocks at the witcher. Geralt protects himself with the quen sign until Caldemeyn orders them to stop. That is however the last favour the alderman plans to extend Geralt and he tells the witcher to leave Blaviken and never come back.
A Matter of Price
The story begins with Geralt being clean-shaven, washed and nicely clothed by the servants and castellan of the royal family's castle in Cintra. Cintra's crown-princess, Pavetta, has turned fifteen years old and as is the custom, contenders for her hand have turned up in their dozens.
Geralt, who is officially invited to the party as the honourable Lord Ravix of Fourhorn, sits next to Queen Calanthe, yet has not been told what is the reason of his invitation. During dinner, he has a long discussion with the queen as to how she sees witchers, what she thinks is their profession, and if she invited him for the right reasons.
Suddenly an uninvited guest enters the room: a helmed spiked knight who introduces himself as the Urcheon of Erlenwald. Granted to speak by the queen, he tells that he has come to collect the promised reward for saving King Roegner's life; by the Law of Surprise, princess Pavetta has belonged to him from the day of her birth.
Although Queen Calanthe admits that what he says is true, she does not have the intention of giving her daughter away to a stranger and an uproar starts between the guests. When the queen asks princess Pavetta if she chooses to leave with the knight, she answers yes. The queen collapses in her chair and a fight breaks out, with the guards and knights attacking Urcheon.
A force that Geralt and the druid Mousesack have already felt for some time, explodes from princess Pavetta as she sees her lover being attacked. As the guests fought, the princess' power grew and became very dangerous to everyone. Distracted by Coodcoodak, Geralt broke through the magic and got Pavetta back to her senses.
When the ruckus had calmed down, the Urcheon of Erlenwald, or Duny and Pavetta explained the situation. They had been seeing each other for over a year now, and had fallen in love. Having calmed down, queen Calanthe agreed with their love, and their forthcoming marriage. Eist Tuirseach, who came that night for the hand of princess Pavetta, ended up accepting the proposal to marry Queen Calanthe. Thanking Geralt for saving his life earlier, Duny offered him whatever he asked for. Geralt asked for "that which you already have but do not know", breaking the news to everyone, including Duny and Pavetta, that the princess was pregnant. He asked that their child was to be raised as a witcher.
The Edge of the World
The story opens with Geralt and Dandelion having stopped in Upper Posada to look for work. After spending a good deal of time trying to find out if there are any paying jobs to be had, the witcher concludes that the tales of the locals are nothing more than superstition and constitute no real work for a witcher. The pair decide to move on, heading towards the "edge of the known world".
As they approach Lower Posada, Dandelion notices a horse-drawn cart seemingly trying to overtake them. Nettly, a local farmer, catches up with them, saying there is indeed work for a witcher and that he too thought the folk in Upper Posada were talking utter nonsense. He suggests they continue on their way and discuss things in relative comfort.
Once in the village, the local elder, Dhun, tells of a 'deovel' whose mischief has become a problem, but under no circumstances should the creature be killed. Despite Dandelion's claims that there are no devils, Geralt agrees to take a look and see what he can do.
Out in the fields, amidst the hemp and hops, Geralt and Dandelion find the 'deovel'. Dandelion and the bleating 'devil' exchange a few words which only serve to provoke the latter; he takes aim and starts throwing iron balls at the witcher and his friend with a fair degree of accuracy, and they flee.
Back in the village, Geralt confronts Dhun and Nettly, and meets the community's old wise woman and Lille. After some discussion, an ancient book is brought forth, and the old woman 'reads' appointed entries from it. This way, the witcher and the bard learn that the devil is, in fact, a sylvan. The villagers had tried to using the book's suggestions for ousting the beast—a suggestion which apparently left it well armed with iron balls. The old woman and Lille leave, taking the book with them; Geralt converses with the men some more.
The following day, back in the fields, Geralt tries to draw out the sylvan and speak. The devil refuses but suggests that if the witcher wants to play games, he's game. Geralt is in no mood for games, but suggests one: "don't do unto others what you would not have them do to you". This essentially leads to a tussle in the hemp from which the sylvan narrowly escapes. Geralt hears a horse and assumes that Dandelion has come to his aid on horseback. But there's a twist in the story, and the witcher is actually knocked down by the unidentified rider.
He stirs to find himself face down on the ground, bound, with the sounds of people talking in the Old Language not far away. He recognizes one of the voices as belonging to the 'devil', and soon learns that his name is Torque. The other speaker is an elf, Galarr. Next to the witcher, Dandelion's similarly bound.
Their captors, elves, notice their captives have awakened, and Toruviel approaches them, aggressively. She makes some rather disparaging remarks about human musical abilities and breaks Dandelion's lute. She then proceeds to torment Geralt. The witcher, despite being bound, manages to knock her off her feet and pin her down. He then headbutts her, breaking her nose, and the elves draw blades.
They're stopped by the arrival on horseback of Filavandrel. The relief doesn't last long, though, for the bard and the witcher are tied to a pine tree with belts. Geralt and Torque both try to talk some sense into the elves' heads, but it's of no use. The elves tell Torque to get out of the way aim their bows.
Fortunately, it's at this point that the Queen of the Fields makes a quite spectacular entrance. The elves halt, lower their weapons, and kneel before her. Filavandrel pleads with her, but while she doesn't say a word, she seems to be communicating with him telepathically. Meanwhile, Torque's cutting Geralt and Dandelion, who's fainted, free. When Torque asks Geralt what to do about the poet, Geralt suggests a few quick slaps about the face, which Torque happily obliges.
After a moment, the elves get up, silent, saddle their horses and start to leave. Filavandrel bids Geralt farewell, Toruviel gives Dandelion a new lute, and they part ways. Filavandrel tells Geralt that he has reconsidered and hopes that the witcher will not let him down when they inevitably meet on the fields of battle. Geralt assures him that he'll do his best.
The story ends with the witcher, the bard and the sylvan around a campfire, wondering where to go next, reading the villagers' book.
The Last Wish
One morning, while trying to fish a breakfast, Dandelion and Geralt catch an ancient, sealed amphora. Dandelion, in a fit of glee, and ignoring Geralt's warnings, releases the genie within. The genie doesn't fulfill even the first one of the bard's wishes, opting to strangle the bard instead. Geralt rushes to the rescue, and after a brief fight, the witcher seizes the seal on the ground and shouts out an exorcism. The genie flees, but Dandelion is far from well and needs help desperately.
After a day's ride, they arrive at the gates of Rinde, but are denied passage before morning. Waiting for the dawn to break, Geralt makes the acquaintance of the elves Chireadan and Errdil and the half-elf knight, Vratimir. They inform him that there's a penalty for spellworking within the city, and the mages are boycotting Rinde in return. There is one though who continues to work her magic: the sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg, residing in the sanctuary provided by the Novigradian merchant-ambassabor, Beau Berrant.
When dawn breaks, Geralt goes to see the sorceress, who is far from awake. Despite their rather explosive start, Yennefer is willing to help Geralt and Dandelion, right after a bath. While Yennefer takes a bath, Geralt is amazed by her beauty, but also realizes that it is probably a spell, as most girls that become a soreceress, are ugly or misformed by nature. He puts these thoughts aside, and decides to just enjoy her beauty, as they talk over Dendalion's condition. Back in Errdil's inn, Chireadan and Geralt wait to hear about the bard and in the meanwhile, chat a little about Yennefer over a cup of tea.
After a while, Yennefer summons Geralt up; Dandelion is happily, safely asleep, and there's only the question of price to be discussed. Geralt first wants to take Dandelion to safety, and offers a price to guarantee his return. Yennefer wants her price right away though, and traps Geralt in the room. After a rather fruitless argument, Geralt passes out and the next thing Geralt knows, he's sharing the cell with 'honest thieves', an innocent old man and Chireadan.
The elf tells Geralt the reason of their presence there: under the influence of a spell of Yennefer, Geralt went rampaging through the town, punishing anyone that had opposed Yennefer. As the two men reflect on their situation, their musings are rudely stopped by the entrance of three guards. One of them starts taunting Geralt while his friends hold the witcher still. Seeking to get out with the least injuries possible, Geralt expresses the wish for the man to burst, and to everyone's surprise, the guard does so.
Later, the witcher and the elf are brought before the town's mayor, Neville and the priest Krepp. The mayor is not happy with the situation, but before he can reach a verdict, Dandelion drops in through a magical portal on the wall. The bard shouts with a perfect voice that he wishes everyone present to believe the witcher's innocent. He was instructed to do this by Yennefer, who sent him through this portal, and wanted to clear Geralt's sheet.
When Dandalion has hardly had time to explain himself, a roaring noise goes through the town. Yennefer has lured the genie to the town, and is trying to capture it to gain its amazing powers. The genie is much stronger than expected though, and despite Yennefer's spells binding it to Errdil's inn, the Genie is trashing the town.
Geralt ushers everyone else into safety, and gets Krepp to opening the portal Dandelion just fell through, and jumps in to save the sorceress. Yennefer doesn't want to give up though, and resists Geralt's help, opening a portal to get rid of him. While he falls into the portal however, the Witcher grabs Yennefer, and the sorceress is dragged into the portal with him. When they exit the portal, Yennefer immediately shakes off Geralt and goes back through the portal, Geralt following her close.
Outside, the people gathered are watching in terror as the genie continues to rampage through the city. After a scuffle between Yennefer and Geralt, with waning powers, the sorceress traps Geralt. The witcher tries to talk some sense into her head, but she won't listen to him.
Then, Geralt realises something. It was not Dandelion, but it was him that did the first wish, and thus the genie is still awaiting Geralt's third wish. Because the genie still has to fulfill his master's wish, he is not yet freed, and is thus not able to be captured by Yennefer. While rethinking his possible last wish, he also realizes what Yennefer looked like before she became a sorceress; she was a hunchback. Then, he decided upon his last wish.
The next moment, the genie tears free, the inn collapses and silence descends. Under the rubble, Yennefer finds herself in Geralt's arms, close and intimate. Just moments later, Yennefer and Geralt make love in the remains of what was the beginning of a storming relationship.
The book known in Poland as Ostatnie życzenie (SuperNOWA, 1993, ISBN 83-7054-061-9) has been translated into Czech, Russian, Lithuanian, German, Swedish, Spanish, French, Finnish, Slovak, Portuguese, Bulgarian, Hungarian and Traditional Chinese. An English translation of The Last Wish was published in the United Kingdom by Gollancz in 2007 and in the United States by Orion in May 2008.
- Bulgarian: Последното желание (ИнфоДАР, 2008)
- Czech: Zaklínač I - Poslední přání (Leonardo, 1999)
- Dutch: De Laatste Wens - Dutch Media Uitgevers, 2010 (ISBN 9789049500368)
- English: The Last Wish, translated by Danusia Stok
- Estonian: Viimane Soov, translated by Aarne Puu (Tiritamm, 2011, ISBN 978-9985-55-282-7)
- Finnish: Viimeinen Toivomus 2010 (ISBN 9510365696)
- French: Le Dernier Vœu (2003)
- German: Der letzte Wunsch
- Hungarian: Vaják I - Az utolsó kivánság (PlayON, 2011, ISBN 978-963-08-1080-7)
- Lithuanian: Paskutinis noras (Eridanas, 2005)
- Portuguese: O Último Desejo
- Brasil - Livros do Brasil, 2005
- Portugal - Editorial Presença, 2011, ISBN 978-972-23-4537-8
- Russian: Последнее желание (AST, 1996, ISBN 5-7921-0081-0)
- Spanish: El último deseo, translated by Jose María Faraldo (Bibliópolis fantástica, 2002)
- Italian: Il Guardiano degli Innocenti (Casa Editrice Nord, 2010)
- Serbian: Poslednja želja (IPS Media, 2009, ISBN 978-86-7274-300-5)
- Traditional Chinese: "獵魔士 - 最後的願望", translated by 林蔚昀 (蓋亞文化, 2011, ISBN 978-986-6157-49-3)
- Review by SFF World
- Review by Fantasy Book Critic
- Review by OF Blog of the Fallen
- Review by The Wertzone
- (Polish) Review of the English edition by Asthner i Falka, Biblioteka Światów
- (Polish) Review of the Polish edition by Michał BAZYL Krupko, Biblioteka Światów