Sunday, 11 September 2011

The Politics of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Part 1: Factions Overview (spoilers)

by KnightofPhoenix

This first blog is a brief overview of all the factions, both major and minor, involved in the game that Geralt can interact with and in some instances, influence their fate. By "major faction", I mean the major players that are present more or less throughout and / or have a dominating presence in the Loc Muinne Conference in Act 3. By "minor", I mean the smaller players that are confined to one act or small locale and / or have a minor role in the Conference of Act 3.

After the brief overview, I will attempt to explain how they all interrelate, which they do, in a vast and complex political web of intrigue.

Before all of that however, we should take a look at the map of the North.

As we can see, the major kingdoms of the North are Temeria (blue), Redenia (red), Kaedwen (green) and Aedirn (brown). The black bloc is the mighty Nilfgaardian Empire. The game deals with all five polities and more. For a detailed summary of the history of the Witcher universe, please check the Witcher wiki. Or this trailer that briefly sumarizes the situation in the North immediately prior the game.

Please keep the map in mind for I will refer to it several times, more notably when it comes to Flotsam and especially the Pontar Valley.

Major Factions:

I. The Kingslayers:

Letho: "I want no gold and have no interest in a killer's fame."

Comprised of 4 Witchers from the Viper School, led by Letho of Gulet, the kingslayers are responsable for the assassination of King Demavend of Aedirn, the failed attempt on King Foltest of Temeria's life and later on his succesful assassination, and finally the attempt on the king of Kaedwen, Henselt's life. The Witcher 2 is focused on them as main antagonists and on Geralt uncovering the conspiracy, to clear his name as he was wrongly accused of Foltest's assassination.

The game starts with Letho assassinating Foltest during the siege of La Valette's castle, where we see the Kingslayers employing the aid of the Scoia'Tael, specifically Iorveth's band of nonhuman freedom fighters / terrorists, while at the same time trying to undermine Iorveth and orchestrate a pseudo-coup d'etat, but without success. It is later on discovered that the Lodge of Sorceresses provided them with the order and ressources to eliminate King Demavend. Only to find out later that Letho had in fact tricked them, pretending to be a mindless grunt while in reality he is quite a competent chessmaster, and went on an assassination spree targetting Northern Kings which the Lodge did not approve of.

At the end, it is revealed that it was in fact the Emperor of Nilfgaard, Emhyr Var Emreis, who was behind the conspiracy. The objective of the kingslayers was to sow as much chaos as possible in the North to pave the way for a Nilfgaardian invasion, by eliminating the major leaders and putting the blame on the mages. With a combination of luck, resourcefulness and trickery, Letho was more or less succesful in his mission, though how much he succeeded depends on Geralt's choices. In exchange for this service, the Emperor promised to rebuild the Viper School of Witchers, which like all Witcher schools, is on the verge of dying out.

It is also revealed that Geralt has history with them, once saving Letho's life, who in turn made sure that Geralt's lover, Yennefer, was safe. Letho also returns the favor by sparing Geralt when he defeated him in Act 1, and potentially further by saving Triss Merigold, Geralt's friend or lover, at the end. The Kingslayers, Letho specifically, are in my opinion one of the best examples of a non-villanous antagonist that are competent but also reasonable. The game can end with Geralt deciding not to fight Letho (my favorite ending).

II. The Blue Stripes:

Vernon Roche: "I carry out orders others are incapable of executing."

Near the end of Act 1, Geralt is confronted with a choice of siding with two opposing factions, to help him in his hunt for the Kingslayer. One of them is the Blue Stripes.

The Blue Stripes are Temerian Special Forces commanded by Vernon Roche. They are essentially a counter-terrorist / guerilla fighter specialist commando unit. The Northern Kingdoms all had their own Special Forces, created during the war with Nilfgaard to counter the Scoia'Tael, nonhuman fighters who employed terror and guerilla tactics.  Somewhat inaccurately dubbed "nonhuman hunters", the Blue Stripes fight the Scoia'Tael and clamp down on rebelling nonhuman communities, with ruthless determination and cruelty, but the nonhumans who abide by the law are not touched by them (of course they are still more or less treated like second class citizens).

In addition to this role, the Blue Stripes also aim to secure Temerian interests against human enemies as well.  Indeed, they helped secure the Eastern border, helped finance and organize rebellions in other kingdoms, and as we see in the prologue, participated in the war against the rebelling La Valettes. In essence, they execute every command the king gives them. Vernon Roche is genuinely very loyal to Foltest, who looked past his commoner and rather "low" standing (he is a bastard son of a ****), and raised him in rank based on his merit and loyalty.

The Blue Stripes are also known for being the only Temerian unit that has a woman in it. Ves is indeed virtually Vernon Roche's right hand woman, who was able to look past gender and appreciate her skills and determination. Though of course her womanly charms are something that the Stripes exploited to their advantage on occasion.

Vernon Roche is almost fanatically devoted to his country Temeria, and even after Foltest's death with no one ordering him, he continued to serve Temeria in the best way he saw fit. He aimed to assassinate the traitor Loredo (Act 1), helped organize dissidents against Henselt (Act 2) which resulted in the massacre of his unit after his actions were discovered, and finally sought to free Foltest's daughter and heir to the throne, Anais, from Dethmold's clutches (Act 3), with or without Geralt's help. At the end depending on choice, Roche ends up either joining up with Regent Natalis of Temeria to help protect and raise Anais to become Queen of Temeria, or runs off with Anais to raise her on his own, or gives Anais to Radovid of Redania and joins the Redanian army.

III. The Scoia'Tael:

Nobleman on Iorveth: "He's been fighting humans for a century!"

Saskia the Dragonslayer: "But for the first time in scores of years his fight makes sense. The Scoia' tael know no peace, they've died for Nilfgaard, for the Valley of Flowers; in vain. They've been betrayed and cheated. Now they have a new goal. The Pontar Valley can be the first state where no man would have to fear elven arrows when venturing beyond city walls, and elves and dwarves wouldn't live in ghettos or on reservations"

The second choice is siding with the Scoia'Tael led by Iorveth. The Scoia'Tael, which means "squirrels" in Elvish, were established during the war with Nilfgaard, as allies of the Empire agains the Northern kingdoms. They are a militant band of nonhuman freedom fighters and terrorists, comprised of Dwarves and Elves but mostly the latter, who are responsable for the devastation of many human settlements. They were betrayed by Nilfgaard at the end of the war and most of their leaders were sacrificed in order to ratify the peace treaty.

One surviving Scoia'Tael leader is Iorveth. A tactical genius and cunning fox, Iorveth managed to outsmart and defeat all Northern Special Forces (he took their crests as trophies, which can be seen on his outfit), with the exception of the Temerian Blue Stripes. He is also a notorious mass murderer, feared and hated by many including nonhumans. His involvement in the story begins with him supporting Letho in his assassination of King Foltest, and preperation to assassinate King Henselt of Kaedwen. However Letho, not underestimating his current ally's cunning, attempted to eliminate him and replace him with another elven leader before he realizes that he is being used. He failed as Iorveth's men displayed remarkable loyalty.

After learning this thanks to Geralt, Iorveth turned on Letho and offered his support to the White Wolf in hunting him down in Upper Aedirn.  We also learn that Iorveth has a change of hearts of sorts, and has found a purpose other than terrorizing human woods. He wanted to support the creation of a Free Pontar State (Upper Aedirn), led by Saskia the Dragonslayer also known as the virgin of Aedirn, where humans and nonhumans can live equally. We later learn that Iorveth was in fact behind the whole idea and myth of the dragonslayer surrounding Saskia, who herself is secretly a shape shifting dragon. Iorveth and his Scoia'Tael participated in the battle of Vergen against Kaedwen, where they potentially (depending on Geralt's choice in Act 1), turn the tide of the battle.

The Socia'Tael and Iorveth specifically, evolve from a band of desperate freedom fighters / terrorists with no hope of victory, to a band of warriors dedicated to a higher cause that quite remarkably (though not without complications and inner strife), has them fight side by side with humans.

IV. Kaedwen:

King Henselt: I’m the King of Kaedwen and soon of Lormark. The North won’t survive without me. I’ve won! Do you know why I rushed into battle? Do you? I had to resolve it before Loc Muinne. A new world order, new borders. Everything will change. All the kings and princes of the North will be there. Do you know the old saying? He who controls the Pontar Valley controls the North."

Geralt of Rivia: "Have the mages been invited?"

King Henselt: "It’s their idea. They want to revive the Council and Conclave. They want to regain their rights and privileges, their place in society. What tripe! I’ve outsmarted them all! I’ll be the one to dictate treaties. I’ll show them who’s ruler!"

The largest state after Nilfgaard, Kaedwen is a northern Kingdom ruled by King Henselt. Henselt is notorious for his oppression of nonhumans, and much more for his backstabbing of Aedirn during the war with Nilfgaard and his deal with the invading Empire to annex the Pontar Valley, then part of the kingdom of Aedirn. The invasion was aborted however, and Kaedwen joined the coalition that defeated Nilfgaard at the battle of Brenna. One year after the war with Nilfgaard, Henselt once again attempted to take the Pontar Valley by force, but suffered a pyyrhic victory that forced him to abort the invasion due to the intervention of Sabrina Glevissig, his then sorceress advisor, who was secretly working with the Lodge to make sure that the balance of power in the North was not disturbed.

The Pontar Valley, called Upper Aedirn or Lormark, depending on who you are asking, is a stragetically very valuable piece of land that borders Temeria, Kaedwen and Aedirn, is rich in mineral wealth, and is bordered by the important river Pontar in the north and the river Dyfne in the south. It thus naturally a very contested land, claimed especially by Aedirn and Kaedwen (it was once Kaedweni lands), and a rising movement of Upper Aedirnian natives (dwarves and humans), led by Saskia, who wish to secede and form their own state.  Henselt, despite his defeat in Vergen a few years back, reassembled an army of 5000 men to try and take the Pontar Valley again, which due to King Demavend's assassination and the civil war in Aedirn, was de facto ruled by Saskia at the time. The Dragonslayer mustered a force of a thousand men for the defense of Vergen, the capital of her nascent state.

His ambitions are hinted at in Act 1 when we learn that Loredo, the de facto ruler of the very strategically valuable Flotsam (refer to map), struck a deal with the King's sorcerer advisor Dethmold. Act 2 deals with his invasion of Vergen, the capital of the Pontar state in formation. His objective is two fold. Acquire the Pontar Valley, which in and of itself is very important, but also strike a preemptive checkmate prior to the Loc Muinne Conference. Him siezing the Pontar Valley would increase his political leverage, and thus his influence on the conference.
Depending on Geralt's choice in Act 1, Henselt either conquers Vergen (though could be killed by Roche), or is defeated due to the timely intervention of Iorveth and his Scoia'Tael. In the latter scenario, Dethmold is executed and Philippa Eilhart imposes her associate from the Lodge, Sile de Tansarville, as his advisor. He is later forced to relinquish his claim on the Pontar Valley and recognize it as an independent state at the Conference.

Henselt is not without opposition. His past deeds, coupled with his current rapprochement with the hated Nilfgaard, to the point of inviting its emisary, Shilard Fitz-Oesterlen, to the Loc Muinne Conference, angered Kaedwenis, nobles, soldiers and commoners alike. With help from Vernon Roche, they formed a hidden dissident group that uses Square Fish coins as symbols. However, the resourceful and cunning Dethmold was successful in dealing with the conspiracy, rather ruthlessly.

Should King Henselt win and still be alive, we see that he has a dominating presence in Act 3 at the conference and we also learn that Dethmold acquired Anais, King Foltest's daughter, given to him by Shilard who was using her as a bargaining chip. Henselt was planning to spread his influence into Temeria itself, dividing it up with his neighbour Redania. Depending on Geralt's choices, he either succeeds, or is checkmated by King Radovid of Redania, or neither get what they want for the time being. Regardless, Kaedwen reached its zenith and the people of Kaedwen prospered thanks to Henselt's expansionist ambition and ruthlessness. Should Henselt die with no heir, Kaedwen falls into civil war.

V. The Free Pontar:

Saskia the Dragonslayer: "Inns will be marked "Humans only". Dwarves will choke in the mines, elves will perished, hunted in the forests! Lords will slaughter peasants because they didn't bow low enough! Is that the land you want to leave to your children?!"

For the sake of simplicity, I'll refer to this faction as the Free Pontar, which Geralt interacts with and explores up close if he sided with Iorveth. The Virgin of Aedirn, Saskia, rallied around her a peasant army that revolted against the Aedirnian monarchy. King Demavend's assassination further resulted in a bigger civil war in Aedirn that prevented the ascension of his son, Stennis, to the throne.

In such chaos, Henselt mobalized his forces to take over the Pontar Valley. Faced with a common foe, the Dwarves of Vergen, peasants and some Aedirnian nobles rallied under Saskia, the only capable commander at this point, to defend it against the Kaedweni invasion. Saskia, with the help of her adviser the sorceress Philippa Eilhart, sought to create an independent Pontar Valley with egalitarian principles, where dwarves, elves and humans can live together equally. The importance of the valley has been explained beforehand. She is thus joined by Iorveth and his Scoia'Tael. This coalition of human peasants, dwarves and Scoia'Tael laid the foundations for the state to be, with the relunctant and ambivalent support given by nobles, knights and the Prince of Aedirn. The coalition managed to muster an army of a thousand men for the defense of Vergen.

Of course such an arrangement is hard to maintain. Dwarves of Vergen are fearful of human peasants overflooding their city, while peasant and noble tensions are rising, while everyone looks at the Scoia'Tael with suspicion, while Prince Stennis refuses to consider Saskia an equal let alone accept her proclamation of independence. This is shown especially when Saskia, the only one holding the coalition together, was poisonned and fell into a coma, before she was cured by Geralt.

On Iorveth's path, where Saskia and the Free Pontar defeat Kaedwen, it is revealed that she was being mind contolled by Philippa Eilhart and the Lodge who have their own agenda, and that she is in fact a dragon (dragons can shape shift in the Witcher universe). The same dragon who tried to help La Valettes against King Foltest in the prologue, because she was apparently impressed with Aryan La Valette, and maybe to gain an ally for the future. Her victory at Vergen allowed her to participate in the Loc Muinne Conference and proclaim the Pontar Valley's independence. Her defeat results in the annexation of the Pontar Valley by Kaedwen and the succumbing of the rest of Aedirn to King Henselt's influence.

VI. The Lodge of Sorceresses:

Philippa Eilhart: "The restitution of the Council and Conclave, and the creation of a strong, independent state with Saskia as its leader. As a bulwark. A defense against Nilfgaard. After years of chaos and destruction, the time has come to build. We wish to rule, yes. Where is the fault in that? Everyone wants to rule! And I know how to do that - better than any monarch in this city."

After the Thanedd Coup, which ended the old mage order as mages turned on each other with regards to whether they should join Nilfgaard, the Northern Kingdoms or remain neutral in the war, a band of sorceresses established a secret society called the Lodge. The Lodge sought to advance mage interests and establish their political dominance. There were 8 founding members, including Philippa Eilhart the de facto leader, Sile de Tancarville, Sabrina Glessivig and Triss Merigold. Many of them were already advisors to kings and in prominent political positions, especially Philippa who was the advisor of the late King of Redania Visimir and his son Radovid after the former's murder (Philippa is hinted to be behind it).

The Lodge's ambitions became much more explicit. They sought to establish an independent state in the Pontar Valley, which they would secretly control via their puppet Saskia (it is thus very likely that Philippa was behind her poisoning, as it is her antidote that brings Saskia under her complete control). In addition, they sought to establish a Conclave and Council of magi, an international organization that they would also control behind the scenes, that would regulate magic and more importantly, appoint mage advisors to Northern Kings. This would allow them to control a very rich and important piece of land and control who gets to advise the kings of the North. In essence, they would control the North behind the scenes.

To achieve this goal, the Lodge needed King Demavend of Aedirn dead to pave the way for the rise of Saskia and the Free Pontar. Letho and the Kingslayers, who were already there trying to start their mission, couldn't believe their luck when the Lodge itself in the person of Sile, unknowingly signed its death warrant by asking them to assassinate the king, providing them with the contacts and ressources to do so. They gladly siezed the opportunity, while faking naivety and compliance. Of course as the sorceresses later realized, Letho outwitted them and went on to assassinate King Foltest, which the Lodge never wanted. It was not in the Lodge's interests to have the North fall into chaos. Hence Sile de Tancarville, predicting that Letho would seek to assassinate Henselt, joined the King's side to both protect him and make sure that the trail leading to her is removed (Geralt still finds out however). She was also there as it was planned that in the event of Henselt's defeat, his advisor Dethmold would be executed and replaced by Sile. It is also interesting to note that while Foltest's death was not part of the plan, it was still slightly convenient. As Triss reveals in Act 1, Natalis is endebted to Philippa Eilhart, through his stakes in Vivaldi's bank which she controls.

The Lodge was not that succesful at the end. King Radovid turned on his advisor Philippa (who either dies or escapes after losing her eyes), Saskia is possibly either dead or freed of her control (though there is the choice to spare her while she's still under their control), and the Lodge was revealed (either by Triss or by Letho who is pretending to be captured by Nilfgaard), partially wrongly, to be behind the assassinations. The Free Pontar could have been defeated, and the Conclave of mages is either disbanded before it even started, or was established, thanks to the intervention of Triss, but while denouncing the Lodge.

VII. Redania:

King Radovid V the Stern: "Politics is like a complicated puzzle. Every piece may prove useful. Or equally useless, even harmful. A breakthrough awaits us at Loc Muinne, by my hand no less. This will be no second Thanedd. Soon, everyone will learn what the Redanian king is capable of."

While Redania and Radovid only show up in Act 3, I'd consider it a major faction because of Redania's importance in the conference, its role in dealing with the Lodge, and its influence over Temeria's fate.

After the murder of Redanian King Visimir the Just, the nobility competed to hold power, while the rightful heir Radovid was still a boy. Philippa Eilhart, hinted to be behind the murder of the king, quickly imposed herself as the most powerful figure in Redania alongside the Regency council to restore stability to the kingdom, and helped raise Radovid (though disregarded his authority as king). However, unexpectedly to all including perhaps Philippa, Radovid turned out to be an astute and cunning politician who would outmaneuver his rivals, impose himself as king and establish for himself the moniker of "The Stern". One way he outmaneuvered mages, Philippa in particular, is his very recent absorption of the Order of the Flaming Rose, a religious-military order that deals with monster, nonhuman threats and more importantly sorcerers (indeed Redanian intelligence helped create it for this purpose).

At Loc Muinne, Radovid aimed to hit several birds in one stone. He immediately turned on an unsuspecting Philippa, the last remaining obstacle to his undisputed sovereignity in Redania under the pretext of her being behind the assassinations as Shilard told him. She is either killed or escaped with her life depending on Geralt's choices on Iorveth's path. He also sought to bring a fractured Temeria under his influence. In order to avoid having to split it with Kaedwen, he asked Geralt to free Anais, King Foltest of Temeria's daughter, from Dethmold's clutches and bring her to him, on Roche's path. If Aryan in the prologue is spared, we see him asking Radovid to free his half-sister. In addition, depending on the choices in TW1, Radovid could have married Princess Adda, King Foltest's daughter (from incest). Both would help Radovid in his quest to make Temeria his protectorate. Depending on Geralt's choice, Radovid is either successful or would have to find another way to sate his ambition.

Furthermore, if Triss is not saved, Radovid deals with the Conclave and the Lodge with an iron fist. If Triss is there to dissociate the Conclave from the Lodge, he brings the Lodge down only.  It is also revealed that Radovid and Nilfgaard concluded an arrangement of sorts, but the specifics are not revealed. It is possible that Radovid helped Nilfgaard deal with their own mage problem (some of the founding members of the Lodge are Nilfgaardians).

Depending on Geralt's choices in both Roche and Iorveth's path, Radovid is either supremely succesful or slightly undermined. But regardless Redania still remains a major power in the North with significant influence and will undoubtedly have an important role in the coming war. And Radovid is the only Northern King who cannot end up dead in the game.

VIII. The Nilfgaardian Empire:

Shilard Fitz-Oesterlen: "I am no warrior sire, I must admit. I prefer to joust verbally or with a pen, the emissary of peace that I am."

King Foltest: "Hogwash! You're the emissary of The White Flame Dancing on the Graves of His Foes, the emperor of Nilfgaard, who spared no blood conquering over a dozen sovereign realms."

Shilard Fitz-Oesterlen: "Thus bringing them laws, culture and peace above all."

The mighty Nilfgaardian Empire is ruled by Emperor Emhyr Var Emreis, and representated in the game by Shilard Fitz-Oesterlen, the Empire's cunning and eloquent emissary and ambassador.

Shilard is present in the Prologue, Act 2 (on both paths) and Act 3. In the Prologue, we can potentially see Nilfgaard playing its own game already if Geralt killed Aryan La Valette. Shilard persuaded the Baroness La Valette to accept Nilfgaardian protection. Already Nilfgaard can be seen projecting its influence.  We furthermore see in Act 2 that Shilard captured Triss Merigold, Geralt's friend / lover, which as we learn later was to extract the name of members of the Lodge and as "evidence" of the Lodge's guilt with regards to the assassinations. We also find out that Shilard was the one who took Anais (and probably killed Boussy, King Foltest's bastard son and Anais' brother), and used her as a bargaining chip with Kaedwen, giving her to Dethmold, most likely to make sure that Temeria would be divided. And as we have already seen, Nilfgaard was in fact behind the assassinations to pave the way for its third invasion attempt, by promising Letho that it would re-establish the Viper Schools.

In Act 3, if Triss Merigold was not saved (which requires Geralt to storm in the Nilgaardian camp and it ends up with Shilard dead), Shilard Fitz-Oesterlen pretended to have captured Letho, who subsequently "confessed" that the Lodge was behind all the assassinations at the Loc Muinne conference. Which led to exactly what Nilfgaard wanted, the elimination of the Lodge and the blaming of mages. If Geralt chose to save Triss, he opted to take Shilard hostage, but Renuald aep Matsen, an imperial bodyguard, killed the emissary himself, showing that he is in fact expendable in the Emperor's plans. Triss revealed in the conference the Lodge's guilt, but dissociated the mages in general from it, which allowed for the Conclave to be created.

How much the Emperor's plan succeeded depends on Geralt's choices, but it was more or less successful, and at the end it is revealed that the Nilfgaardian empire's army crossed the Yaruga River and is marching North.  The Third Northern War had begun.

Minor Factions:

I. La Valettes:

Aryan La Valette: "Hear that men? The king sends a witcher and we are to surrender, forgetting the very nature of honor and pride. We must choose, shame or a witcher's sword. Is that how you would live? Will you bow your heads before Foltest?"

La Valettes' rebellion is delt with in the prologue. La Valettes, alongside opposition to Foltest made up of nobles and knights, rose up to remove the King, by using the Baroness Marie Louise's children, Boussy and Anais whom she concieved with Foltest, as their banner. Temeria thus fell in civil war.

The rebellion made its last stand at La Valette castle, but was defeated by Foltest, despite the curious intervention of a dragon that only targetted the King's men. However, during the battle Foltest was assassinated by Letho and Temerian lords quickly maneuvred to secure or advance their position, causing the virtual collapse of central authority.

If Aryan, Marie Louise's son and commander of the rebelling army, is killed, Shilard is shown taking up the Baroness under his protection. If the former survived, we see him in Act 3 appealing to Radovid to aid him in recovering his half-sister Anais.

II. Temeria:

King Foltest: "Piss on the laws! I'll change them if need be. Above all I'll not allow a band of treacherous barons to use my children as their banner."

King Foltest of Temeria was assassinated by Letho after his very short lived victory against La Valettes and the recovery of his bastard children and heirs. The death of one of the mightiest kings of the North, plunged Temeria into civil war. Nobles competed against each other and threatened to divide the kingdom up.

Constable John Natalis, the victorious commander at the Battle of Brenna, siezed power in an effort to prevent the disintegration of Temeria. Due to his apolitical skills however, the now Regent of Temeria was in a very precarious position, admitting that he could not guarantee maintaining his position for a week. It is as such that Temeria was the weak link of Act 3 to be devoured by Redania and potentially Kaedwen. It must be reminded that Natalis is indebted to Philippa Eilhart via Vivaldi's bank as well.

Geralt however could deliver Anais, Foltest's daughter and heir, to Natalis, though it remains to be seen if that would strengthen his position or cause more civil strife as nobles fight to control the girl. Another alternative has Roche free Anais and flee with her, intending to raise her to one day reclaim her father's throne. And finally if Anais is given to Radovid, Temeria becomes a Redanian protectorate, with the Stern King taking the girl to Redania where he would look after her as her regent.

III. Loredo:

Loredo: "King Foltest is dead. It's likely that the Scoia'Tael had a hand in this heinous murder. So you see, none of you can feel safe. That is why today, wagons with armements will roll out on Flotsam's streets. I hereby declare a state of emergency! Await orders, prepare to fight, and ready yourselves to avenge your fallen king."

I'd consider commandant Loredo a faction due to his dominating position in Act 1, especially over a very important trading hub on the Pontar in Temeria, Flotsam. After Foltest's death and the virtual collapse of central authority, Loredo essentiallly became the de facto ruler of the city, by using his garrison and the fear and hatred of Iorveth's Scoia'Tael to bring everyone in line. He is also contributing to the rising tension and hatred of nonhumans of the city, potentially provoking or allowing a pogrom targetted at nonhumans to take place in Flotsam, should Iorveth be victorious in the skirmish just outside the city's walls.

We also learn that Loredo is corrupt, practising nepotism and traficking in fisstech (drugs). And that he was making deals with Kaedwen via Dethmold, showing his true colors as a traitor to Temeria. Needless to say, Vernon Roche wanted him assassinated.
Loredo dies on Roche's path and can be killed on Iorveth's, should Geralt elect to not save the elven women from burning and hunt down the commandant.

IV. Square Fish Coin Rebels:

Anti-Henselt pamphlet: "A new order must arise in the Northern Kingdoms. A wave of turmoil has passed through Aedirn and Temeria, and now it rushes towards Kaedwen. A swell murky with blood rises in its wake. Once it reaches Henselt's realm, we shall not speak of regicide, but of the simple slaughter of a pig."

As said earlier, King Henselt is not the most popular king during the game. His past and present overtures to Nilfgaard, in addition to Dethmold's notoriety, had angered soldiers, commoners and nobles. With the assistance of Vernon Roche, under the order of King Foltest, a secretive dissident movement rallying noblemen and soldiers was formed 3 years prior the game, which uses square fish coins as its secret symbol.

Indeed, King Henselt faced opposition a few days before the second battle of Vergen, where apparently a number of officers and nobles refused to fight without being guaranteed land in the Pontar. It seems that Henselt was only able to command part of his army to attack. That said, it's not clear if these individuals were part of the secretive dissident movement, and it became evident that with Foltest's death and Dethmold's gradually more severe and volatile crackdown, that Roche could not longer sway a number of nobles to continue their opposition.

Dethmold successfully and ruthlessly cracked down on the conspirators during the 3 days prior the battle and after discovering Roche's complicity in the conspiracy, eliminated the Blue Stripes. Which pissed off Roche tremendously to say the least.

V. Aedirn:

Prince Stennis: "In this world there are crimes that can be forgiven! And crimes that, by any means, cannot! Just as a mother killing her own child or a man slitting his own brother's throat cannot be forgiven. A crime against one anointed by the gods themselves can also not be condoned! He who raises hand against divine right is not worthy to walk this world!
[...] I am the one you should look to for guidance. Let my deeds be the flame that lights up your darkness."

After King Demavend's assassination, several factions began contending for the throne, including his son Prince Stennis. Some such as Count Felart, fearful of the peasant rebellions, even desired to assist King Henselt of Kaedwen in his invasion of the Pontar Valley.
In order to increase his legitimacy, Stennis on the otherhand decided to join forces with Upper Aedirnian forces, led by the only capable commander at its disposal Saskia, to fend off the Kaedweni invasion. The hope was that they'd see him as their leader and savior and that victory would be attributed to him, which would boost his legitimacy and his prospects of gaining the throne. Unfortunately for him, he underestimated Saskia's popularity and the disdain the commoners, who were now used to egalitarian rethoric, showed him, as well as overestimating their ability to tolerate his arrogance.

On Roche's path, Stennis died even before the battle started. On Iorveth's path, he survived and it is heavily implied, though not clearly shown, that Stennis was behind Saskia's poisoning. In any case, the mob is quite sure it was him and sought to lynch him. The nobility stood behind the Prince, not because they believed he was innocent necessarily, but because they were afraid what the mob might do to them as a whole if they got out of control. Indeed, the human mob went as far as to say they wanted to kick the dwarves out of their own city.

Depending on Geralt's choices, Stennis is either killed by the mob, or simply imprisonned, where he is later on freed and crowned the king of Aedirn (minus the Pontar Valley, in that scenario, it would have been an independent state).

VI- The Conclave:

Carduin of Lan Exeter: "The document describing the charter of the Council and Conclave is, as perviously ascertained, an exact copy of the charter found in the ruins on Thanedd Island. The more important question relates to the Conclave and its power to designate royal advisors. Today, randomly chosen mages and sorceresses reside at many courts. However at the time of the previous Conclave, such persons were carefully chosen."

After the Thanedd coup, magic and mage advisors were no longer regulated by an international organization. The Lodge desired to re-establish such an organization, but with them secretly controlling it. The purpose of the Loc Muinne conference, in addition to redrawing the map of the North, was to establish the Conclave, a new international organization that would regulate magic and appoint mage advisors to the Northern Kings.

However, if Triss is not saved, the yet to be born Conclave is declared guilty of the assassinations alongside the Lodge and a witch hunt ensued, preventing its creation. If Triss Merigold is freed however, despite being a founding member of the Lodge (which she does not reveal publically), she denounced her colleagues and revealed them to be behind the assassinations. Carduin, the main spokesman of the nascent Conclave, immediately and quite astutely removed Sile from the conclave and denounced the Lodge. This allowed the Conclave to be established.

Inter-Faction Dynamics:

This is a tough one because virtually all of them are linked in one way or the other, that the game shows quite well. And this web develops throughout until its glorious climax in Act 3.

So I decided to try and show all the dynamics at play via a (poorly made) diagram:

And that's it for the Faction Overview! The blogs coming afterwards would deal with more specific issues, in more detail, such as the nonhuman question and the Pontar Valley, and attempt to draw real life parallels.

See Part 2

See Part 3



1 comment:

jacku said...

Boy, am I glad I found this blog. What you did here to describe the Witcher lore is extraordinary. Big fan.