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Sword of Destiny
Translated by David French
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Geralt the Witcher battles monsters, demons and prejudices alike in Sword of Destiny, the second collection of adventures in Andrzej Sapkowski’s groundbreaking epic fantasy series that inspired the Netflix show and the hit video games.
Geralt is a Witcher, a man whose magic powers, enhanced by long training and a mysterious elixir, have made him a brilliant fighter and a merciless hunter. Yet he is no ordinary killer: his targets are the multifarious monsters and vile fiends that ravage the land and attack the innocent.
Sword of Destiny is the follow up to The Last Wish, and together they are the perfect introduction to a one of a kind fantasy world.
The Last Wish
Sword of Destiny
Blood of Elves
The Time of Contempt
Baptism of Fire
The Tower of Swallows
Lady of the Lake
Season of Storms
The Tower of Fools
Warriors of God
Translated from original Polish by David French
THE BOUNDS OF REASON
A SHARD OF ICE
A LITTLE SACRIFICE
THE SWORD OF DESTINY
Also By Andrzej Sapkowski
THE BOUNDS OF REASON
'He won't get out of there, I'm telling you,' the pockmarked man said, shaking his head with conviction. 'It's been an hour and a quarter since he went down. That's the end of 'im.'
The townspeople, crammed among the ruins, stared in silence at the black hole gaping in the debris, at the rubble-strewn opening. A fat man in a yellow jerkin shifted from one foot to the other, cleared his throat and took off his crumpled biretta.
'Let's wait a little longer,' he said, wiping the sweat from his thinning eyebrows.
'For what?' the spotty-faced man snarled. 'Have you forgotten, Alderman, that a basilisk is lurking in that there dungeon? No one who goes in there comes out. Haven't enough people perished? Why wait?'
'But we struck a deal,' the fat man muttered hesitantly. 'This just isn't right.'
'We made a deal with a living man, Alderman,' said the spotty-faced man's companion, a giant in a leather butcher's apron. 'And now he's dead, sure as eggs is eggs. It was plain from the start he was heading to his doom, just like the others. Why, he even went in without a looking glass, taking only a sword. And you can't kill a basilisk without a looking glass, everyone knows that.'
'You've saved yourself a shilling, Alderman,' the spotty-faced man added. 'For there's no one to pay for the basilisk. So get off home nice and easy. And we'll take the sorcerer's horse and chattels. Shame to let goods go to waste.'
'Aye,' the butcher said. 'A sturdy mare, and saddlebags nicely stuffed. Let's take a peek at what's inside.'
'This isn't right. What are you doing?'
'Quiet, Alderman, and stay out of this, or you're in for a hiding,' the spotty-faced man warned.
'Sturdy mare,' the butcher repeated.
'Leave that horse alone, comrade.'
The butcher turned slowly towards the newcomer, who had appeared from a recess in the wall, and the people gathered around the entrance to the dungeon.
The stranger had thick, curly, chestnut hair. He was wearing a dark brown tunic over a padded coat and high riding boots. And he was not carrying a weapon.
'Move away from the horse,' he repeated, smiling venomously. 'What is this? Another man's horse, saddlebags and property, and you can't take your watery little eyes off them, can't wait to get your scabby mitts on them? Is that fitting behaviour?'
The spotty-faced man, slowly sliding a hand under his coat, glanced at the butcher. The butcher nodded, and beckoned towards a part of the crowd, from which stepped two stocky men with close-cropped hair. They were holding clubs of the kind used to stun animals in a slaughterhouse.
'Who are you,' the spotty-faced man asked, still holding his hand inside his coat, 'to tell us what is right and what is not?'
'That is not your concern, comrade.'
'You carry no weapon.'
''Tis true.' The stranger smiled even more venomously. 'I do not.'
'That's too bad.' The spotty-faced man removed his hand – and with it a long knife – from inside his coat. 'It is very unfortunate that you do not.'
The butcher also drew a knife, as long as a cutlass. The other two men stepped forward, raising their clubs.
'I have no need,' the stranger said, remaining where he stood. 'My weapons follow me.'
Two young women came out from behind the ruins, treading with soft, sure steps. The crowd immediately parted, then stepped back and thinned out.
The two women grinned, flashing their teeth and narrowing their eyes, from whose corners broad, tattooed stripes ran towards their ears. The muscles of their powerful thighs were visible beneath lynx skins wrapped around their hips, and on their sinuous arms, naked above their mail gloves. Sabre hilts stuck up behind their shoulders, which were also protected by chainmail.
Slowly, very slowly, the spotty-faced man bent his knees and dropped his knife on the ground.
A rattle of stones and a scraping sound echoed from the hole in the rubble, and then two hands, clinging to the jagged edge of the wall, emerged from the darkness. After the hands then appeared, in turn, a head of white hair streaked with brick dust, a pale face, and a sword hilt projecting above the shoulders. The crowd murmured.
The white-haired man reached down to haul a grotesque shape from the hole; a bizarre bulk smeared in blood-soaked dust. Holding the creature by its long, reptilian tail, he threw it without a word at the fat Alderman's feet. He sprang back, tripping against a collapsed fragment of wall, and looked at the curved, birdlike beak, webbed wings and the hooked talons on the scaly feet. At the swollen dewlap, once crimson, now a dirty russet. And at the glazed, sunken eyes.
'There's your basilisk,' the white-haired man said, brushing the dust from his trousers, 'as agreed. Now my two hundred lintars, if you please. Honest lintars, not too clipped. I'll check them, you can count on it.'
The Alderman drew out a pouch with trembling hands. The white-haired man looked around, and then fixed his gaze for a moment on the spotty-faced man and the knife lying by his foot. He looked at the man in the dark brown tunic and at the young women in the lynx skins.
'As usual,' he said, taking the pouch from the Alderman's trembling hands, 'I risk my neck for you for a paltry sum, and in the meantime you go after my things. You never change; a pox on the lot of you.'
'Haven't been touched,' the butcher muttered, moving back. The men with the clubs had melted into the crowd long before. 'Your things haven't been touched, sir.'
'That pleases me greatly,' the white-haired man smiled. At the sight of the smile burgeoning on his pale face, like a wound bursting, the small crowd began to quickly disperse. 'And for that reason, friend, you shall also remain untouched. Go in peace. But make haste.'
The spotty-faced man was also retreating. The spots on his white face were unpleasantly conspicuous.
'Hey, stop there,' the man in the dark brown tunic said to him. 'You've forgotten something.'
'What is that . . . sir?'
'You drew a knife on me.'
The taller of the women suddenly swayed, legs planted widely apart, and twisted her hips. Her sabre, which no one saw her draw, hissed sharply through the air. The spotty-faced man's head flew upwards in an arc and fell into the gaping opening to the dungeon. His body toppled stiffly and heavily, like a tree being felled, among the crushed bricks. The crowd let out a scream. The second woman, hand on her sword hilt, whirled around nimbly, protecting her partner's back. Needlessly. The crowd, stumbling and falling over on the rubble, fled towards the town as fast as they could. The Alderman loped at the front with impressive strides, outdistancing the huge butcher by only a few yards.
'An excellent stroke,' the white-haired man commented coldly, shielding his eyes from the sun with a black-gloved hand. 'An excellent stroke from a Zerrikanian sabre. I bow before the skill and beauty of the free warriors. I'm Geralt of Rivia.'
'And I,' the stranger in the dark brown tunic pointed at the faded coat of arms on the front of his garment, depicting three black birds sitting in a row in the centre of a uniformly gold field, 'am Borch, also known as Three Jackdaws. And these are my girls, Téa and Véa. That's what I call them, because you'll twist your tongue on their right names. They are both, as you correctly surmised, Zerrikanian.'
'Thanks to them, it appears, I still have my horse and belongings. I thank you, warriors. My thanks to you too, sir.'
'Three Jackdaws. And you can drop the "sir". Does anything detain you in this little town, Geralt of Rivia?'
'Quite the opposite.'
'Excellent. I have a proposal. Not far from here, at the crossroads on the road to the river port, is an inn. It's called the Pensive Dragon. The vittals there have no equal in these parts. I'm heading there with food and lodging in mind. It would be my honour should you choose to keep me company.'
'Borch.' The white-haired man turned around from his horse and looked into the stranger's bright eyes. 'I wouldn't want anything left unclear between us. I'm a witcher.'
'I guessed as much. But you said it as you might have said "I'm a leper".'
'There are those,' Geralt said slowly, 'who prefer the company of lepers to that of a witcher.'
'There are also those,' Three Jackdaws laughed, 'who prefer sheep to girls. Ah, well, one can only sympathise with the former and the latter. I repeat my proposal.'
Geralt took off his glove and shook the hand being proffered.
'I accept, glad to have made your acquaintance.'
'Then let us go, for I hunger.'
The innkeeper wiped the rough table top with a cloth, bowed and smiled. Two of his front teeth were missing.
'Right, then . . . ' Three Jackdaws looked up for a while at the blackened ceiling and the spiders dancing about beneath it.
'First . . . First, beer. To save your legs, an entire keg. And to go with the beer . . . What do you propose with the beer, comrade?'
'Cheese?' risked the innkeeper.
'No,' Borch grimaced. 'We'll have cheese for dessert. We want something sour and spicy with the beer.'
'At your service,' the innkeeper smiled even more broadly. His two front teeth were not the only ones he lacked. 'Elvers with garlic in olive oil and green pepper pods in vinegar or marinated . . . '
'Very well. We'll take both. And then that soup I once ate here, with diverse molluscs, little fish and other tasty morsels floating in it.'
'Log drivers' soup?'
'The very same. And then roast lamb with onions. And then three-score crayfish. Throw as much dill into the pot as you can. After that, sheep's cheese and lettuce. And then we'll see.'
'At your service. Is that for everyone? I mean, four times?'
The taller Zerrikanian shook her head, patting herself knowingly on her waist, which was now hugged by a tight, linen blouse.
'I forgot.' Three Jackdaws winked at Geralt. 'The girls are watching their figures. Lamb just for the two of us, innkeeper. Serve the beer right now, with those elvers. No, wait a while, so they don't go cold. We didn't come here to stuff ourselves, but simply to spend some time in conversation.'
'Very good.' The innkeeper bowed once more.
'Prudence is a matter of import in your profession. Give me your hand, comrade.'
Gold coins jingled. The innkeeper opened his gap-toothed mouth to the limit.
'That is not an advance,' Three Jackdaws announced, 'it is a bonus. And now hurry off to the kitchen, good fellow.'
It was warm in the snug. Geralt unbuckled his belt, took off his tunic and rolled up his shirtsleeves.
'I see,' he said, 'that you aren't troubled by a shortage of funds. Do you live on the privileges of a knightly estate?'
'Partially,' Three Jackdaws smiled, without offering further details.
They dealt quickly with the elvers and a quarter of the keg. Neither of the two Zerrikanians stinted on the beer, and soon were both in visible good humour. They were whispering something to each other. Véa, the taller one, suddenly burst out in throaty laughter.
'Are the warriors versed in the Common Speech?' Geralt asked quietly, sneaking a sideways glance at them.
'Poorly. And they are not garrulous. For which they deserve credit. How do you find the soup, Geralt?'
'Let us drink.'
'Geralt,' Three Jackdaws began, putting aside his spoon and hiccoughing in a dignified manner, 'I wish to return, for a moment, to the conversation we had on the road. I understand that you, a witcher, wander from one end of the world to the other, and should you come across a monster along the way, you kill it. And you earn money doing that. Does that describe the witcher's trade?'
'More or less.'
'And does it ever happen that someone specifically summons you somewhere? On a special commission, let's say. Then what? You go and carry it out?'
'That depends on who asks me and why.'
'And for how much?'
'That too,' the Witcher shrugged. 'Prices are going up, and one has to live, as a sorceress acquaintance of mine used to say.'
'Quite a selective approach; very practical, I'd say. But at the root of it lies some idea, Geralt. The conflict between the forces of Order and the forces of Chaos, as a sorcerer acquaintance of mine used to say. I imagine that you carry out your mission, defending people from Evil, always and everywhere. Without distinction. You stand on a clearly defined side of the palisade.'
'The forces of Order, the forces of Chaos. Awfully high-flown words, Borch. You desperately want to position me on one side of the palisade in a conflict, which is generally thought to be perennial, began long before us and will endure long after we've gone. On which side does the farrier, shoeing horses, stand? Or our innkeeper, hurrying here with a cauldron of lamb? What, in your opinion, defines the border between Chaos and Order?'
'A very simple thing,' said Three Jackdaws, and looked him straight in the eye. 'That which represents Chaos is menace, is the aggressive side. While Order is the side being threatened, in need of protection. In need of a defender. But let us drink. And make a start on the lamb.'
The Zerrikanians, watching their figures, were taking a break from eating, time they spent drinking more quickly. Véa, leaning over on her companion's shoulder, whispered something again, brushing the table top with her plait. Téa, the shorter of the two, laughed loudly, cheerfully narrowing her tattooed eyelids.
'Yes,' Borch said, picking a bone clean. 'Let us continue our talk, if you will. I understand you aren't keen on being placed on either side. You do your job.'
'But you cannot escape the conflict between Chaos and Order. Although it was your comparison, you are not a farrier. I've seen you work. You go down into a dungeon among some ruins and come out with a slaughtered basilisk. There is, comrade, a difference between shoeing horses and killing basilisks. You said that if the payment is fair, you'll hurry to the end of the world and dispatch the monster you're asked to. Let's say a fierce dragon is wreaking havoc on a—'
'Bad example,' Geralt interrupted. 'You see, right away you've mixed up Chaos and Order. Because I do not kill dragons; and they, without doubt, represent Chaos.'
'How so?' Three Jackdaws licked his fingers. 'Well, I never! After all, among all monsters, dragons are probably the most bestial, the cruellest and fiercest. The most revolting of reptiles. They attack people, breathe fire and carry off, you know, virgins. There's no shortage of tales like that. It can't be that you, a witcher, don't have a few dragons on your trophy list.'
'I don't hunt dragons,' Geralt said dryly. 'I hunt forktails, for sure. And dracolizards. And flying drakes. But not true dragons; the green, the black or the red. Take note, please.'
'You astonish me,' Three Jackdaws said. 'Very well, I've taken note. In any case, that's enough about dragons for the moment, I see something red on the horizon and it is surely our crayfish. Let us drink!'
Their teeth crunched through the red shells, and they sucked out the white flesh. The salt water, stinging painfully, trickled down over their wrists. Borch poured the beer, by now scraping the ladle across the bottom of the keg. The Zerrikanians were even more cheerful, the two of them looking around the inn and smiling ominously. The Witcher was convinced they were searching out an opportunity for a brawl. Three Jackdaws must also have noticed, because he suddenly shook a crayfish he was holding by the tail at them. The women giggled and Téa pouted her lips for a kiss and winked. Combined with her tattooed face, this made for a gruesome sight.
'They are as savage as wildcats,' Three Jackdaws murmured to Geralt. 'They need watching. With them, comrade, suddenly – before you know it – the floor's covered in guts. But they're worth every penny. If you knew what they're capable of . . . '
'I know,' Geralt nodded. 'You couldn't find a better escort. Zerrikanians are born warriors, trained to fight from childhood.'
'I didn't mean that.' Borch spat a crayfish claw onto the table. 'I meant what they're like in bed.'
Geralt glanced anxiously at the women. They both smiled. Véa reached for the dish with a swift, almost imperceptible movement. Looking at the Witcher through narrowed eyes, she bit open a shell with a crack. Her lips glistened with the salt water. Three Jackdaws belched loudly.
'And so, Geralt,' he said. 'You don't hunt dragons; neither green nor any other colour. I've made a note of it. And why, may I ask, only those three colours?'
'Four, to be precise.'
'You mentioned three.'
'Dragons interest you, Borch. For any particular reason?'
'No. Pure curiosity.'
'Aha. Well, about those colours: it's customary to define true dragons like that, although they are not precise terms. Green dragons, the most common, are actually greyish, like ordinary dracolizards. Red dragons are in fact reddish or brick-red. It's customary to call the large dark brown ones "black". White dragons are the rarest. I've never seen one. They occur in the distant North. Reputedly.'
'Interesting. And do you know what other dragons I've also heard about?'
'I do,' Geralt sipped his beer. 'The same ones I've heard about. Golden dragons. There are no such creatures.'
'On what grounds do you claim that? Because you've never seen one? Apparently, you haven't seen a white one either.'
'That's not the point. Beyond the seas, in Ofir and Zangvebar, there are white horses with black stripes. I haven't seen them, but I know they exist. But golden dragons are mythical creatures. Fabled. Like the phoenix, let's say. There are no phoenixes or golden dragons.'
Véa, leaning on her elbows, looked at him curiously.
'You must know what you're talking about, you're a witcher,' Borch ladled beer from the keg, 'but I think that every myth, every fable, must have some roots. Something lies among those roots.'
'It does,' Geralt confirmed. 'Most often a dream, a wish, a desire, a yearning. Faith that there are no limits to possibility. And occasionally chance.'
'Precisely, chance. Perhaps there once was a golden dragon, an accidental, unique mutation?'
'If there were, it met the fate of all mutants.' The Witcher turned his head away. 'It differed too much to endure.'
'Ha,' Three Jackdaws said, 'now you are denying the laws of nature, Geralt. My sorcerer acquaintance was wont to say that every being has its own continuation in nature and survives in some way or another. The end of one is the beginning of another, there are no limits to possibility; or at least nature doesn't know any.'
'Your sorcerer acquaintance was a great optimist. But he failed to take one thing into consideration: a mistake committed by nature. Or by those who trifle with it. Golden dragons and other similar mutants, were they to exist, couldn't survive. For a very natural limit of possibilities prevents it.'
'What limit is that?'
'Mutants,' the muscles in Geralt's jaw twitched violently, 'mutants are sterile, Borch. Only in fables survives what cannot survive in nature. Only myths and fables do not know the limits of possibility.'
Three Jackdaws said nothing. Geralt looked at the Zerrikanians, at their faces, suddenly grown serious. Véa unexpectedly leant over towards him and put a hard, muscular arm around his neck. He felt her lips, wet from beer, on his cheek.
'They like you,' Three Jackdaws said slowly. 'Well, I'll be damned, they like you.'
'What's strange about that?' the Witcher smiled sadly.
'Nothing. But we must drink to it. Innkeeper. Another keg!'
'Take it easy. A pitcher at most.'
'Two pitchers!' Three Jackdaws yelled. 'Téa, I have to go out for a while.'
The Zerrikanian stood up, took her sabre from the bench and swept the room with a wistful gaze. Although previously, as the Witcher had observed, several pairs of eyes had lit up greedily at the sight of Borch's bulging purse, no one seemed in a hurry to go after him as he staggered slightly towards the door to the courtyard. Téa shrugged, following her employer.
'What is your real name?' Geralt asked the one who had remained at the table. Véa flashed her white teeth. Her blouse was very loosely laced, almost to the limits of possibility. The Witcher had no doubt it was intentionally provocative.
'Pretty.' The Witcher was sure the Zerrikanian would purse her lips and wink at him. He was not mistaken.
'Why do you ride with Borch? You, free warriors? Would you mind telling me?'
'He is . . . ' the Zerrikanian, frowning, searched for the words. 'He is . . . the most . . . beautiful.'
The Witcher nodded. Not for the first time, the criteria by which women judged the attractiveness of men remained a mystery to him.
Three Jackdaws lurched back into the snug fastening his trousers, and issued loud instructions to the innkeeper. Téa, walking two steps behind him, feigning boredom, looked around the inn, and the merchants and log drivers carefully avoided her gaze. Véa was sucking the contents from another crayfish, and continually throwing the Witcher meaningful glances.
'I've ordered us an eel each, baked this time,' Three Jackdaws sat down heavily, his unfastened belt clinking. 'I struggled with those crayfish and seem to have worked up an appetite. And I've organised a bed for you, Geralt. There's no sense in you roaming around tonight. We can still amuse ourselves. Here's to you, girls!'
'Vessekheal,' Véa said, saluting him with her beaker. Téa winked and stretched; and her bosom, contrary to Geralt's expectations, did not split the front of her blouse.
'Let's make merry!' Three Jackdaws leant across the table and slapped Téa on the backside. 'Let's make merry, Witcher. Hey, landlord! Over here!'
The innkeeper scuttled briskly over, wiping his hands on his apron.
"This is a series you can sink your teeth into."—BuzzFeed News
"Delightful, intense, irreverent, and compelling....you have to read The Witcher books because they are rife with all of the elements that make you love fiction, and especially fantasy, in the first place....In a word, The Witcher delivers."—Hypable
"One of the best and most interesting fantasy series I've ever read."—Nerds of a Feather
"Like Mieville and Gaiman, [Sapkowski] takes the old and makes it new ... fresh take on genre fantasy."—Foundation
"Sapkowski has a confident and rich voice which permeates the prose and remains post-translation. I'd recommend this to any fan of heroic or dark fiction."—SF Book Reviews
- On Sale
- Jul 5, 2022
- Page Count
- 416 pages