Silence fell again. Candle flames pulsated, flicked upwards in thin wisps of fire, glimmering in the cut-crystal chalices. Cascades of wax trickled down the candlestick. Nivellen sat still, lightly twitching his enormous ears. 'Let's assume,' he saidfinally, 'that you draw your sword before I jump on you. Let's assume you even manage to cut me down. With my weight, that won't stop me; I'll take you down through sheer momentum. And then it's teeth that'll decide. What do you think, witcher, which one of us has a better chance if it comes to biting each other's throats?'
Geralt, steadying the carafe's pewter stopper with his thumb, poured himself some wine, took a sip and leaned back into his chair. He was watching the monster with a smile. An exceptionally ugly one. 'Yeeees,' said Nivellen slowly, digging at the corner of his jaws with his claw.'One has to admit you can answer questions without using many words. It'll be interesting tosee how you manage the next one. Who paid you to deal with me?' 'No one. I'm here by accident.' 'You're not lying, by any chance?' 'I'm not in the habit of lying.' 'And what are you in the habit of doing? I've heard about witchers they abduct�tiny children whom they feed with magic herbs. The ones who survive become witchers themselves, sorcerers with inhuman powers. They're taught to kill, and all humanfeelings and reactions are trained out of them. They're turned into monsters in order to killother monsters. I've heard it said it's high time someone started hunting witchers, as there arefewer and fewer monsters and more and more witchers. Do have some partridge before it's completely cold.' Nivellen took the partridge from the dish, put it between his jaws and crunched it like a piece of toast, bones cracking as they were crushed between his teeth. 'Why don't you say anything?' he asked indistinctly, swallowing. 'How much of the rumours about you witchers is true?' 'Practically nothing.' 'And what's a lie?' 'That there are fewer and fewer monsters.' 'True. There's a fair number of them.' Nivellen bared his fangs. 'One is sittingin front of you wondering if he did the right thing by inviting you in. I didn't like your guildbadge right from the start, dear guest.' 'You aren't a monster, Nivellen,' the witcher said dryly. 'Pox, that's something new. So what am I? Cranberry pudding? A flock of wild geese flying south on a sad November morning? No? Maybe I'm the virtue that a miller's buxom daughter lost in spring? Well, Geralt, tell me what I am. Gan't you see I'm shaking with curiosity?' 'You're not a monster. Otherwise you wouldn't be able to touch this silver tray.And in no way could you hold my medallion.'
'Ha!' Nivellen roared so powerfully the candle flames fell horizontal for a moment. 'Today, very clearly, is a day for revealing great and terrible secrets! Now I'm going to be told that I grew these ears because I didn't like milky porridge as a child!' 'No, Nivellen,' said Geralt calmly. 'It happened because of a spell. I'm sure you know who cast that spell.' 'And what if I do?' 'In many cases a spell can be uncast.' 'You, as a witcher, can uncast spells in many cases?'