Publisher’s note: edited for spelling only. Opinions, factual errors, grammatical confusions and crudeness are on part of the writer of this anecdote.
Which the sorceress, Triss Merigold, taught me reading and writing years ago, but then she complained afterwards that I am not very good at spelling and also that I forget to answer letters. I beg to differ but Vernon Roche says it’s all true “even though he tries not to agree with what sorceresses say anymore.” Anyway, Triss says why don’t I keep a journal for practice and I wasn’t going to but then she gives me one as a present.
So the first thing I will write is what happened shortly before she gave me this book because it’s an interesting enough tale:
So the war had ended. I’ll spare the grimy details as I do not care much for politics. Suffice to say that with a free Temeria and no further threat of the world ending I was mostly at loose ends. The Commander was of course always very busy trying to help run his beloved country into the ground but I have (he said) “A less diverse skillset.” By which he means that I generally am not the sort to think on things before I do them.
Which he isn’t totally wrong there.
I wasn’t about to cop to that, though, so instead I said “Diverse rhymes with arse. Sir.”
Then I departed gracefully. There was a letter awaiting in my quarters just after I left that interview. It was from Triss Merigold and it said to come visit in Novigrad and see the city, so I left the next day.
I had been to the city only once before, whence it had been either dark or pouring rain (or both) entirely. This time it was very hot instead. I strolled along in the sunshine, feeling a little out of place in the big city’s bustle. There might as well have never been a war for the way everyone was carrying on. In general, I was traveling in the right direction, but at some point my surroundings stopped looking familiar. The streets didn’t seem to be as crowded. The air got even hotter. There wasn’t a breath of wind. I turned down an alley in front of a big old abandoned house where something strange happened to me:
First, it was extremely quiet. The sounds of the crowded streets and carts and other things had dwindled to nothing. Second, there was a man in the alley that I hadn’t noticed when I came into it. It wasn’t like I’d just missed him being there, either; I’d checked for strangers when I started out. It was like he just turned up out of thin air. I can’t really describe exactly what he looked like.
He sort of waved at me to come over. I did, even though normally I would never do such a foolish thing. All he did was hand me a gold locket, hold a finger up to his lips, say shh, and vanish. One moment there, the next gone. Like one minute I was in the alley alone except for him, and the next I was there with a sudden crowd of bleating sheep and barking dogs. I quickly dodged up out of the way of the flock in confusion.
That is all I remember about the alley or the man who was in it. All I have to prove it weren’t a dream brought on by the heat of the day is the locket, which I still have. I am not good at drawing so I will describe how it looked:
Gold locket on a long gold chain, within is a four leaf clover under glass instead of a painting. No scratches or engravings. Medium size.
(This is how Geralt the Witcher once said that one should make notes during an investigation of monsters, and I am not so sure that this doesn’t qualify as something of the sort.)
“Huh,” I said to myself, looking at it there in the alley. One of the sheepdogs then took exception to my existence and I made my escape back into the crowded street.
I still was not sure where I was, exactly. An hour of walking passed me by. Triss, I knew, lived in or near Hierarch Square, but the city was surprisingly complicated. I started to get ever more tired and sweaty.
“Sure wish I had any idea where I was,” I mumbled to myself, and then the crowd suddenly thinned out in time for me to spot a message board. I fought my way through the street into the turd-filled gutter and took a look. There, among the usual notices about lost dogs and the like, someone had pinned up a big map of the city. ‘Paid for by City Council,’ it read, and on it was marked where I stood. I found the way to my destination and set off with a new sense of purpose.
It was with no little relief that I finally found Triss’s house in its little courtyard behind the square. I knocked on the door and the witch answered right away.
“Ves!” She said, sort of shocked. “I’m glad to see you, but I wish you would have written back to let me know you were coming.”
“I did,” said I. I had, too, the very night before I’d left. “Must have gotten lost on the way, I guess.”
“Maybe,” Triss said, and ushered me indoors. I stood sweatily in the hall for a moment, where I noticed that the room was a bit dusty and that the carpet she had in front of the door was a little crooked. I sort of casually adjusted it with my feet to straighten it and uncovered the corner of a paper envelope.
Triss had gone on into another room. I swooped down and grabbed the envelope, noticed immediately that it was marked “Triss M., Hierarch Square Novigrad” from my address in Vizima. I stuffed the letter into my pocket before Triss could see it and followed into the other room.
It turned out to be a laboratory or maybe a kitchen, or both. I’d seen war zones before. I would say Triss’s kitchen closely resembled the aftermath of the Battle in Loc Muinne – dragon scales and all. I decided it was best and politest to say nothing on the mess of spilled potions, ingredients, papers, and something that looked like it might be a bloodstain. Safe to say the witch was clearly very busy with something, and I’d apparently interrupted whatever it was.
Since I was trying to work on improving my manners in an attempt to prove Roche wrong, I embarked on a discussion of the highwaymen I’d helped fend off on the journey north instead. I’d say she about half listened to me, half messed around with all her various witch equipments. I kept talking.
“…and I got lost trying to find this place,” I was saying, “And some guy in an alley gave me a clover leaf inside a gold locket. Real strange.”
“Oh yes?” Triss said, for about the twentieth time, and then seemed to give what I’d just said a second thought. “A locket?”
“That’s right,” I said, holding it up. “Only been to this town once before, is this the normal thing to do around here?”
“No,” she said, frowning. “Not at all. Can I see?”
She opened it up, looked it all over, and said, “Well, it’s most likely magical, but I can’t tell how exactly. It could be good magic, or it could be cursed. You really shouldn’t accept things from strangers.”
So I don’t, usually, but I know by now not to argue with sorceresses no matter how old of friends they are. It never really does any good.
“There is a clover in it,” I said, thoughtfully, “And everyone knows a four-leaf clover is good luck.”
“Your good luck is looking a little wilted,” said the sorceress, and handed the locket back. I looked inside and I’d swear up and down that when I’d gotten it not three hours before the clover inside was green and fresh. Since then, one of the leaves had gone brown.
“Huh,” I said. “Strange. Wish I knew how it worked.”
“The locket is good luck,” said Triss, all of a sudden, “But when the clover is dried up, the luck runs out and nothing can bring it back.”
Ladies and gents, if you are a learned type or else a clever one, you can probably already tell what sort of magic I had been gifted. I am not ashamed to admit that I am neither of those things. I only figured out what she meant after, before my very eyes, a second of the clover’s four leaves dried up and turned brown. I stood in the silent kitchen, feeling a bit stupid, until Triss cleared her throat pointedly. She looked at the locket again, nodded, and handed it back to me.
“I don’t know who gave you this or why, but you should be careful about what you say while you have it.”
I’d figured that out by now, but it seemed unfair to make any amusing or sarcastic comments. I put the locket away instead and we turned our attention to other matters.
Despite her distraction, Triss was a good host. We went to visit Dandelion, who I hadn’t seen in some years, and a grand time was had by all. Couldn’t help but think to myself that Triss seemed reserved throughout, or preoccupied. On our way home, I asked her about it, in my most subtle fashion.
“So what’s eating you?”
Triss appeared confused by my question.
“What do you mean?”
I pride myself on my investigative ability. Also, I was fairly drunk. I ignored what in hindsight was probably meant to brush me off and, also, her warning glare, and kept talking.
“You didn’t notice my letter, even thought it was delivered, and you got some kind of catastrophe in your lab, and you didn’t even laugh about my story about Roche and the donkeys.”
“That’s because I was there when that incident took place,” she said, primly. But that was no excuse; Dandelion had been, too, and he’d thought it was funny.
“It was a reminiscence,” I argued.
“You have been improving your vocabulary,” said Triss, but not sarcastically. She added, trying to sound reassuring, “Everything is fine, Ves. I’m just very busy. Don’t worry about it.”
As I am sure people have noticed, when someone says not to worry about something, I often take it upon myself to do the opposite. I’ve also never needed luck to be good at snooping around. I snuck downstairs well after midnight. The kitchen or lab was dark and empty except for a glowing sort of crystal on the counter. It gave off enough white light for me to poke around. But all the papers were in runes or else a language I didn’t know and I couldn’t make much sense of the different potions and other things that were scattered around. I was still poking through the mess, although most of it meant nothing to me, when the glow of the crystal went dark.
Same time, I heard someone else come into the room. I ducked behind the corner of a counter and stayed crouched there, to see what was up. Someone walked around in the dark for a moment and then a light came on. It was a warm glow, from the fireplace, not the cold crystal light.
“Ves,” said Triss’s voice. “I know you’re in here.”
I stood up. The witch looked at me with sort of a resigned frown on her face.
“The lab is warded,” she said.
I probably should have considered that possibility, but it had never crossed my mind. I knew more about hunting criminals and terrorists than I did spying on sorceresses.
“You know,” she continued, “I knew you were going to do something like this. You always have to get involved. Why?”
“Don’t know,” I mumbled, and, added, in a normal voice, “I have a condition. At least that’s what the Commander always says. Why don’t you tell me what’s going on?”
“It’s quite literally not something you can help with,” she said, sternly. I opened my mouth to argue and then closed it again. I could tell she meant what she’d said.
I was slightly hurt, if I was honest.
I reached in my pocket and took out the locket.
“Sure it is. And I don’t really need luck, anyway. Take this.”
“It’s yours,” she protested. I shoved it into her hand anyway.
“You need it more than I do.”
I never did find out what it was that was going so wrong in her life, but when I woke up the next morning the kitchen was as tidy as anyone could wish. It was witch business, I guessed, and therefore none of mine. I was eating most of a loaf of bread when Triss reappeared from somewhere. I made no comment; I was used to such things by then. I’d seen plenty of magical portals before and I was not shocked by the emergence of another.
She had the locket which she gave back to me. There were some mixed emotions on her face that I couldn’t read very well.
“Thank you,” she said. “You’ll find there’s one green leaf left on the clover still. You’re a good friend, Ves.”
I felt my face go red and looked away.
For the rest of the time I was in Novigrad all was well. We went to a play that night and later on there was a festival. I looked everywhere for the person I’d gotten the locket from, but I never saw him anywhere. Moreover, I couldn’t even find the alley I’d met him in, kept I ever so sharp an eye out for it. I left for Vizima at the end of the week. On the last day, Triss gave me a right handsome book of blank pages to write in, with my name in silver letters on the cover.
And I still had a little bit of luck left over in my pocket.