The mid-afternoon sun was bright and hot. It was the kind of day that made bad men worse and good men lazy. A horse galloped along the grassy road, its rider paying no heed to the intense heat. He stared intently ahead of him, his senses straining to find what he was looking for. The rider smiled. From several hundred yards, he could hear the rushing of water and smell its clean spray. Once they reached the river’s edge, both rider and horse halted.
“Good boy, Roach”, said the strange rider as he dismounted and patted the horse’s neck. “Take a drink and we’ll be on our way again.” The horse drank gratefully as the white-haired stranger stopped and listened intently. A nasty grin crept across his face and he shook his head as five men approached on horseback.
The five men, hooded and cloaked in spite of the intense heat, halted a few yards away from the horse and rider. The leader, a massive man with a great scar on his left arm, spoke first. “Who be ye, white one, and what’s yer business here?” The white-haired stranger regarded the man with an intense stare and simply said, “Who’s askin’?” The hooded leader regarded the stranger with both disgust and nervousness. The stranger’s glare was made all the more unsettling due to his yellow, cat-like eyes. “I’m Garin of Varina”, bit out the man, “and we don’t like freaks in these parts, so be off with ye or you won’t go any further”.
The white-haired stranger only smiled back at the man and the intense, yellow glow of his eyes seemed to grow. Garin, becoming more unsettled, roared at him, “Well, who are ye??? Speak or ye’re a dead man!” The stranger walked a few paces closer.
“Geralt of Rivia” came the calm reply. “I’m a Witcher and I heard there’s work in Varina, so I’ve come to do it. Now, will you be letting me pass or will I have to go through you?” All five men laughed, but with a nervous undertone. “Well, Geralt of Rivia”, mocked the leader, “my boys and I don’t allow mutants in our lovely Varina, especially Witchers. You lot pretend to hunt monsters and rob the poor folk blind while ye do it. We’ll never let ye pass.”face grew broader. “Tis a shame”, he said quietly, “to have to pollute this beautiful river with your blood”.
At a sign, three of the men leapt off their horses and drew hidden crossbows. Geralt, with blinding reflexes, drew the sign of Quen just as the three bolts reached him. The shield deflected them and they dropped harmlessly to the grass. The leader and the fifth rider lept of their horses and all drew their swords. They rushed at the Witcher who stood calmly, awaiting their onset.
All five were skilled swordsmen in their own way, but on this day, they had made a mistake. Geralt parried, spun and thrust with reflexes twice as fast as a normal man. Within seconds, he had decapitated two of the attackers with swift, shorts strokes. He turned on the remaining three, spinning and striking at the exact right moment, running his sword through one and, simultaneously and in one fluid motion, drew a dagger from his belt and buried it in the neck of the second attacker. Garin, the leader, dropped his sword and fell to his knees in stunned disbelief.
“Mercy!” cried Garin. “Have pity, master!”, he begged. The Witcher regarded him with a mixture of cold disgust and amusement. “As I told you before”, he said at last, “it really is a shame to pollute such a beautiful river”. Garin’s eyes grew wide and he opened his mouth to beg, but it was too late. With and incredibly fast and powerful stroke of his sword, Geralt struck his head from his shoulders and the man’s body fell heavily to the grass. “Well, Roach”, he said after a long silence, “We best be on our way”. As Geralt mounted and rode on, the blood of his attackers flowed onto the grass and into the once pure, clear stream.