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Time of Contempt: Witcher 2 – Now a major Netflix show (The Witcher Book 8) by [Andrzej Sapkowski, David French]

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Time of Contempt: Witcher 2 – Now a major Netflix show (The Witcher Book 8) Kindle Edition

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More Witcher Adventures, Andrzej Sapkowski, The Tower of Fools, Geralt, fantasy, epic fantasy

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"This is a series you can sink your teeth into."--BuzzFeed News

The Lady of the Lake is, without any doubt, the best and most profound fantasy novel I have ever read. It is hard to put down, yet also a challenging and deeply rewarding book. And it is genuinely moving. I have never read a fantasy series like this, and suspect I never will again."--Nerds of a Feather on The Lady of the Lake

"A breath of fresh air in a well-worn genre. Don't miss it!"--Fantasy Book Review

"The universe of Sapkowski's The Witcher is one of the most detailed and best-explored in modern fantasy, offering endless opportunities for fresh ideas ... Complex character relationships enrich this already complex world; this is the sort of series fantasy fans will cherish."--B&N

"
The Witcher delivers one of the most intense and rewarding role-playing experiences this year."--GT Reviews on The Witcher video game

"I really, really enjoyed this book ... None of the characters in Sapkowski's world are black or white; they are all shades of grey, including Geralt and the monsters."--
The Deckled Edge

"It is [his] world-weariness combined with his battle-honed powers that make Geralt such an interesting character. Here's hoping
The Last Wish is merely the opening chapter in his English language adventures."--Edge

"Like a complicated magic spell, a Sapkowski novel is a hodgepodge of fantasy, intellectual discourse, and dry humor. Recommended."--
Time

"Like Mieville and Gaiman, [Sapkowski] takes the old and makes it new ... fresh take on genre fantasy."--
Foundation on The Last Wish

"New battle mechanics, a fantastic storyline, and a gritty setting make
The Witcher one of the most engrossing, mature RPGs to arrive on the PC in years."--Gamespot.com on The Witcher video game --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

The Time of Contempt

By Andrzej Sapkowski

Orbit

Copyright © 2013 Andrzej Sapkowski
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-316-21913-6

CHAPTER 1

When talking to youngsters entering the service, Aplegatt usually told them thatin order to make their living as mounted messengers two things would benecessary: a head of gold and an arse of iron.

A head of gold is essential, Aplegatt instructed the young messengers, since inthe flat leather pouch strapped to his chest beneath his clothing the messengeronly carries news of less vital importance, which could without fear beentrusted to treacherous paper or manuscript. The really important, secrettidings–those on which a great deal depended–must be committed tomemory by the messenger and only repeated to the intended recipient. Word forword; and at times those words are far from simple. Difficult to pronounce, letalone remember. In order to memorise them and not make a mistake when they arerecounted, one has to have a truly golden head.

And the benefits of an arse of iron, oh, every messenger will swiftly learnthose for himself. When the moment comes for him to spend three days and nightsin the saddle, riding a hundred or even two hundred miles along roads orsometimes, when necessary, trackless terrain, then it is needed. No, of courseyou don't sit in the saddle without respite; sometimes you dismount and rest.For a man can bear a great deal, but a horse less. However, when it's time toget back in the saddle after resting, it's as though your arse were shouting,'Help! Murder!'

'But who needs mounted messengers now, Master Aplegatt?' young people wouldoccasionally ask in astonishment. 'Take Vengerberg to Vizima; no one could knockthat off in less than four–or even five–days, even on the swifteststeed. But how long does a sorcerer from Vengerberg need to send news to asorcerer from Vizima? Half an hour, or not even that. A messenger's horse may golame, but a sorcerer's message always arrives. It never loses its way. It neverarrives late or gets lost. What's the point of messengers, if there aresorcerers everywhere, at every kingly court? Messengers are no longer necessary,Master Aplegatt.'

For some time Aplegatt had also been thinking he was no longer of any use toanyone. He was thirty-six and small but strong and wiry, wasn't afraid of hardwork and had–naturally–a head of gold. He could have found otherwork to support himself and his wife, to put a bit of money by for the dowriesof his two as yet unmarried daughters and to continue helping the married onewhose husband, the sad loser, was always unlucky in his business ventures. ButAplegatt couldn't and didn't want to imagine any other job. He was a royalmounted messenger and that was that.

And then suddenly, after a long period of being forgotten and humiliatinglyidle, Aplegatt was once again needed. And the highways and forest tracks onceagain echoed to the sound of hooves. Just like the old days, messengers began totravel the land bearing news from town to town.

Aplegatt knew why. He saw a lot and heard even more. It was expected that hewould immediately erase each message from his memory once it had been given,that he would forget it so as to be unable to recall it even under torture. ButAplegatt remembered. He knew why kings had suddenly stopped communicating withthe help of magic and sorcerers. The news that the messengers were carrying wasmeant to remain a secret from them. Kings had suddenly stopped trustingsorcerers; stopped confiding their secrets in them.

Aplegatt didn't know what had caused this sudden cooling off in the friendshipbetween kings and sorcerers and wasn't overly concerned about it. He regardedboth kings and magic-users as incomprehensible creatures, unpredictable in theirdeeds–particularly when times were becoming hard. And the fact that timeswere now hard could not be ignored, not if one travelled across the land fromcastle to castle, from town to town, from kingdom to kingdom.

There were plenty of troops on the roads. With every step one came across aninfantry or cavalry column, and every commander you met was edgy, nervous, curtand as self-important as if the fate of the entire world rested on him alone.The cities and castles were also full of armed men, and a feverish bustle wenton there, day and night. The usually invisible burgraves and castellans nowceaselessly rushed along walls and through courtyards, angry as wasps before astorm, yelling, swearing and issuing orders and kicks. Day and night, lumberingcolumns of laden wagons rolled towards strongholds and garrisons, passing cartson their way back, moving quickly, unburdened and empty. Herds of frisky three-year-old mounts taken straight out of stables kicked dust up on the roads.Ponies not accustomed to bits nor armed riders cheerfully enjoyed their lastdays of freedom, giving stable boys plenty of extra work and other road users nosmall trouble.

To put it briefly, war hung in the hot, still air.

Aplegatt stood up in his stirrups and looked around. Down at the foot of thehill a river sparkled, meandering sharply among meadows and clusters of trees.Forests stretched out beyond it, to the south. The messenger urged his horse on.Time was running out.

He'd been on the road for two days. The royal order and mail had caught up withhim in Hagge, where he was resting after returning from Tretogor. He had leftthe stronghold by night, galloping along the highway following the left bank ofthe Pontar, crossed the border with Temeria before dawn, and now, at noon of thefollowing day, was already at the bank of the Ismena. Had King Foltest been inVizima, Aplegatt would have delivered him the message that night. Unfortunately,the king was not in the capital; he was residing in the south of the country, inMaribor, almost two hundred miles from Vizima. Aplegatt knew this, so in theregion of the White Bridge he left the westward-leading road and rode throughwoodland towards Ellander. He was taking a risk. The Scoia'tael1 continued toroam the forests, and woe betide anyone who fell into their hands or came withinarrowshot. But a royal messenger had to take risks. Such was his duty.

He crossed the river without difficulty–it hadn't rained since June andthe Ismena's waters had fallen considerably. Keeping to the edge of the forest,he reached the track leading south-east from Vizima, towards the dwarvenfoundries, forges and settlements in the Mahakam Mountains. There were plenty ofcarts along the track, often being overtaken by small mounted units. Aplegattsighed in relief. Where there were lots of humans, there weren't any Scoia'tael.The campaign against the guerrilla elves had endured in Temeria for a year and,being harried in the forests, the Scoia'tael commandos had divided up intosmaller groups. These smaller groups kept well away from well-used roads anddidn't set ambushes on them.

Before nightfall he was already on the western border of the duchy of Ellander,at a crossroads near the village of Zavada. From here he had a straight and saferoad to Maribor: forty-two miles of hard, well-frequented forest track, andthere was an inn at the crossroads. He decided to rest his horse and himselfthere. Were he to set off at daybreak he knew that, even without pushing hismount too hard, he would see the silver and black pennants on the red roofs ofMaribor Castle's towers before sundown.

He unsaddled his mare and groomed her himself, sending the stable boy away. Hewas a royal messenger, and a royal messenger never permits anyone to touch hishorse. He ate a goodly portion of scrambled eggs with sausage and a quarter of aloaf of rye bread, washed down with a quart of ale. He listened to the gossip.Of various kinds. Travellers from every corner of the world were dining at theinn.

Aplegatt learned there'd been more trouble in Dol Angra; a troop of Lyriancavalry had once again clashed with a mounted Nilfgaardian unit. Meve, the queenof Lyria, had loudly accused Nilfgaard of provocation–again–andcalled for help from King Demavend of Aedirn. Tretogor had seen the publicexecution of a Redanian baron who had secretly allied himself with emissaries ofthe Nilfgaardian emperor, Emhyr. In Kaedwen, Scoia'tael commandos, amassed intoa large unit, had orchestrated a massacre in Fort Leyda. To avenge the massacre,the people of Ard Carraigh had organised a pogrom, murdering almost four hundrednon-humans residing in the capital.

Meanwhile the merchants travelling from the south described the grief andmourning among the Cintran emigrants gathered in Temeria, under the standard ofMarshal Vissegerd. The dreadful news of the death of Princess Cirilla, the LionCub, the last of the bloodline of Queen Calanthe, had been confirmed.

Some even darker, more foreboding gossip was told. That in several villages inthe region of Aldersberg cows had suddenly begun to squirt blood from theirudders while being milked, and at dawn the Virgin Bane, harbinger of terribledestruction, had been seen in the fog. The Wild Hunt, a spectral army gallopingacross the firmament, had appeared in Brugge, in the region of Brokilon Forest,the forbidden kingdom of the forest dryads; and the Wild Hunt, as is generallyknown, always heralds war. And a spectral ship had been spotted off CapeBremervoord with a ghoul on board: a black knight in a helmet adorned with thewings of a bird of prey…

The messenger stopped listening; he was too tired. He went to the commonsleeping chamber, dropped onto his pallet and fell fast asleep.

He arose at daybreak and was a little surprised as he entered thecourtyard–he was not the first person preparing to leave, which wasunusual. A black gelding stood saddled by the well, while nearby a woman in maleclothing was washing her hands in the trough. Hearing Aplegatt's footsteps sheturned, gathered her luxuriant black hair in her wet hands, and tossed it back.The messenger bowed. The woman gave a faint nod.

As he entered the stable he almost ran into another early riser, a girl in avelvet beret who was just leading a dapple grey mare out into the courtyard. Thegirl rubbed her face and yawned, leaning against her horse's withers.

'Oh my,' she murmured, passing the messenger, 'I'll probably fall asleep on myhorse ... I'll just flake out ... Auuh ...'

'The cold'll wake you up when you give your mare free rein,' said Aplegattcourteously, pulling his saddle off the rack. 'Godspeed, miss.'

The girl turned and looked at him, as though she had only then noticed him. Hereyes were large and as green as emeralds. Aplegatt threw the saddlecloth overhis horse.

'I wished you a safe journey,' he said. He wasn't usually talkative or effusivebut now he felt the need to talk to someone, even if this someone was just asleepy teenager. Perhaps it was those long days of solitude on the road, orpossibly that the girl reminded him a little of his middle daughter.

'May the gods protect you,' he added, 'from accidents and foul weather. Thereare but two of you, and womenfolk at that ... And times are ill at present.Danger lurks everywhere on the highways.'

The girl opened her green eyes wider. The messenger felt his spine go cold, anda shudder passed through him.

'Danger ...' the girl said suddenly, in a strange, altered voice. 'Danger comessilently. You will not hear it when it swoops down on grey feathers. I had adream. The sand ... The sand was hot from the sun.'

'What?' Aplegatt froze with the saddle pressed against his belly. 'What say you,miss? What sand?'

The girl shuddered violently and rubbed her face. The dapple grey mare shook itshead.

'Ciri!' shouted the black-haired woman sharply from the courtyard, adjusting thegirth on her black stallion. 'Hurry up!'

The girl yawned, looked at Aplegatt and blinked, appearing surprised by hispresence in the stable. The messenger said nothing.

'Ciri,' repeated the woman, 'have you fallen asleep in there?'

'I'm coming, Madam Yennefer.'

By the time Aplegatt had finally saddled his horse and led it out into thecourtyard there was no sign of either woman or girl. A cock crowed long andhoarsely, a dog barked, and a cuckoo called from among the trees. The messengerleapt into the saddle. He suddenly recalled the sleepy girl's green eyes and herstrange words. Danger comes silently? Grey feathers? Hot sand? The maid wasprobably not right in the head, he thought. You come across a lot likethat these days; deranged girls spoiled by vagabonds or other ne'er-do-wells inthese times of war ... Yes, definitely deranged. Or possibly only sleepy, tornfrom her slumbers, not yet fully awake. It's amazing the poppycock people comeout with when they're roaming around at dawn, still caught between sleep andwakefulness ...

A second shudder passed through him, and he felt a pain between his shoulderblades. He massaged his back with a fist.

Weak at the knees, he spurred his horse on as soon as he was back on the Mariborroad, and rode away at a gallop. Time was running out.


The messenger did not rest for long in Maribor–not a day had passed beforethe wind was whistling in his ears again. His new horse, a roan gelding from theMaribor stable, ran hard, head forward and its tail flowing behind. Roadsidewillows flashed past. The satchel with the diplomatic mail pressed againstAplegatt's chest. His arse ached.

'Oi! I hope you break your neck, you blasted gadabout!' yelled a carter in hiswake, pulling in the halter of his team, startled by the galloping roan flashingby. 'See how he runs, like devils were licking his heels! Ride on, giddy-head,ride; you won't outrun Death himself!'

Aplegatt wiped an eye, which was watering from the speed.

The day before he had given King Foltest a letter, and then recited KingDemavend's secret message.

'Demavend to Foltest. All is prepared in Dol Angra. The disguised forces awaitthe order. Estimated date: the second night after the July new moon. The boatsare to beach on the far shore two days later.'

Flocks of crows flew over the highway, cawing loudly. They flew east, towardsMahakam and Dol Angra, towards Vengerberg. As he rode, the messenger silentlyrepeated the confidential message the king of Temeria had entrusted to him forthe king of Aedirn.

'Foltest to Demavend. Firstly: let us call off the campaign. The windbags havecalled a council. They are going to meet and debate on the Isle of Thanedd. Thiscouncil may change much. Secondly: the search for the Lion Cub can be calledoff. It is confirmed. The Lion Cub is dead.'

Aplegatt spurred on his horse. Time was running out.


The narrow forest track was blocked with wagons. Aplegatt slowed down andtrotted unhurriedly up to the last wagon in the long column. He saw he could notforce his way through the obstruction, but nor could he think about headingback; too much time would be lost. Venturing into the boggy thicket and ridingaround the obstruction was not an attractive alternative either, particularlysince darkness was falling.

'What's going on?' he asked the drivers of the last wagon in the column. Theywere two old men, one of whom seemed to be dozing and the other showing no signsof life. 'An attack? Scoia'tael? Speak up! I'm in a hurry ...'

Before either of the two old men had a chance to answer, screams could be heardfrom the head of the column, hidden amongst the trees. Drivers leapt onto theirwagons, lashing their horses and oxen to the accompaniment of choice oaths. Thecolumn moved off ponderously. The dozing old man awoke, moved his chin, cluckedat his mules and flicked the reins across their rumps. The moribund old man cameto life too, drew his straw hat back from his eyes and looked at Aplegatt.

'Mark him,' he said. 'A hasty one. Well, laddie, your luck's in. You've joinedthe company right on time.'

'Aye,' said the other old man, motioning with his chin and urging the mulesforward. 'You are timely. Had you come at noon, you'd have come to a stop likeus and waited for a clear passage. We're all in a hurry, but we had to wait. Howcan you ride on, when the way is closed?'

'The way closed? Why so?'

'There's a cruel man-eater in these parts, laddie. He fell on a knight ridingalong the road with nowt but a boy for company. They say the monster rent theknight's head right off–helmet and all–and spilt his horse'sgizzards. The boy made good his escape and said it was a fell beast, that theroad was crimson with gore—'

'What kind of monster is it?' asked Aplegatt, reining in his horse in order tocontinue talking to the wagoners as they drove on. 'A dragon?'


(Continues...)Excerpted from The Time of Contempt by Andrzej Sapkowski. Copyright © 2013 Andrzej Sapkowski. Excerpted by permission of Orbit.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B00BJ5ADLQ
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Gollancz; 1st edition (24 Jun. 2013)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 1763 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 337 pages
  • Customer reviews:
    4.7 out of 5 stars 9,509 ratings

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