On the surface, the story of the Witcher seems like it should be pretty straightforward: Geralt of Rivia’s life becomes inextricably intertwined with a child and a sorceress. Villains of various stripes come for the girl. The Witcher and the witch fight to rescue her, while she approaches some sort of cosmic destiny or decision.
But in the original novels by Andrzej Sapkowski and even more in the series of interconnected shows and movies on Netflix (three so far, with rumors of a fourth coming), story has a tendency to float back and forth through time in ways that are unexpected and ingenious. Characters that we originally meet in one form return in entirely different forms in later (or far earlier) eras, while individual seasons or episodes can suddenly shift between periods in ways that you don’t realize until you’re already waist deep in them.
Given the fluidity of time in The Witcherverse, establishing the actual history of the world known of the Continent can be a little challenging. As we get ready for the second volume of The Witcher's third season (dropping July 27), here's what we've been given, in chronological order.
Year 0000: The Conjunction of the Spheres
As depicted in The Witcher: Blood Origin, 1200 years before the events of the Witcher, the Continent consisted of three Elven kingdoms who had been at war for a thousand years. When the king of the kingdom of Xin’trea makes an attempt to finally establish peace, his chief sage Balor arranges for the gathered rulers of all three kingdoms to be assassinated by a monster he had brought to the Continent from another world. Balor then combines the three kingdoms into a harsh and tyrannical world government known as the Golden Empire.
Having stolen from the mage Syndril the equations that allow him to move between spheres (aka worlds), Balor attempts to tap into powerful otherworldly forces of Chaos. But in the end he is thwarted by Syndril and a band of six other warriors known together as the Seven. In destroying the monolith that powers Balor’s efforts, Syndril and fellow mage Zacaré accidentally bring about the Conjunction of the Spheres, am interdimensional event which temporarily shatters the barrier between dimensions, drawing human beings and many monsters onto the Continent.
These events also see the creation of the first witcher, a member of the Seven who agrees to be changed in order to defeat Balor’s monster. It’s also the time of Ithlinne, the Elven prophetess whose predictions anticipate the events of Geralt’s time and Ciri’s life, and Avallac’h, the young Elven mage who learns how to travel through time during the course of these events and, if the series follows the books, will prove to be enormously important in Ciri and the Continent’s future.
Unbeknownst to anyone, the interdimensional band of spectres known as the Wild Hunt who will torment Ciri also originate from this time, after Balor casts the royal guardian Eredin and the six members of his squad into another dimension.
1100-1165: Vesemir and the fall of the witchers
Over 100 years before we meet Geralt of Rivia, the anime film The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf gives us the origin story of his mentor Vesemir. As a child Vesemir was a servant who saw no future for himself, until he helped the witcher Deglan deal with a monster. Vesemir followed Deglan back to the witcher keep at Kaer Morhen and was one of very few children to survive the trials and become a Witcher.
65 years later, Vesemir had become more interested in killing monsters to making money than worrying about any greater purpose or code to the work of being a witcher. Meanwhile the number of monsters was diminishing and local people were beginning to condemn witchers as monsters themselves.
During an investigation into a monster, Vesemir discovers that Deglan had begun secretly commissioning the creation of new monsters to keep the witchers in business. When local people learn this, they work with the sorceress Tetra to launch an army of monsters at the keep. Almost every witcher dies in the subsequent battle, including the one mage who knew the formula of the potion of transformation used to create witchers. Only Vesemir and a few witcher novices survive. Those children become the last group of witchers there would ever be. Among them is a young Geralt of Rivia.
1206-1262: Yennefer and Geralt
While most of the story of the TV series the Witcher takes place across just a few years, the first season actually hops around within a sixty year period that begins chronologically with the story of Yennefer of Vengeberg, the physically-contorted daughter of a pig farmer who becomes a powerful sorceress, and ends just before the invasion of Cintra.
In chronological order, here are the main events in this period:
1206 (ep 2) – Yennefer of Vengeberg is sold by her father to the sorceress Tissaia de Vries, and begins training at the magic school Aretuza.
1210 (ep 3)—Yennefer undergoes surgery to transform her body (at the expense of her ability to conceive children), and becomes the mage for the kingdom of Aedlin.
1231 (ep 1) – Geralt first meets Stregobor the mage, fights and reluctantly kills the cursed Princess Renfri and her men, and gets the name the Butcher of Blaviken.
1240 (ep 2) – Geralt meets the bard Jaskier. The two are almost killed by the exiled Elven king Filavandrel. Jaskier writes a song about the events, in which he describes Geralt fighting off an entire army of Elves, which never happened. It makes them both famous.
1249 (ep 4)—At a betrothal feast in Cintra, Geralt helps the mysterious cursed suitor Duny marry Princess Pavetta. When Duny insists he take a reward, Geralt claims the Law of Surprise, only to discover that Pavetta is secretly pregnant with a daughter, Cirilla.
1256 (ep 5)—Geralt and Yennefer meet for the first time and fall in love. Yennefer helps save Jaskier’s life, then uses him to try and capture the Djinn that injured him. Seeing that she’s going to be killed, Geralt uses his final wish from the Djinn to save her life.
1262 (ep 6)—Geralt and Jaskier hunt a dragon along with a group of adventurers that also includes Yennefer, who now wants nothing to do with Geralt. They reconcile temporarily, only to learn that Geralt’s wish has bound their fates in a way that make it impossible to know whether their feelings for each other are real or magically-induced.
1263-1265: The Fall of Cintra and the Battle of Sodden Hill
In 1263, the southern empire of Nilfgaard attacks the kingdom of Cintra, immediately overwhelming their forces and turning Cintra into a beachhead for the invasion of all of the kingdoms of the North.
At the very center of this invasion is Cintra’s Princess Ciri, who is sent by her grandmother Queen Calanthe to find Geralt of Rivia. Fleeing the castle, Ciri is pursued by the forces of Nilfgaard, whose mysterious ruler the White Flame is intent on seizing her.
Meanwhile a group of sorcerers and sorceresses led by the mages Vilgefortz and Tissaia and including Yennefer decide to take a stand against Nilfgaard at Sodden Hill Keep. Yennefer taps into forbidden fire magic, decimating Nilfgaard’s forces but also seeming to die in the process.
Nearby, Geralt and Ciri unexpectedly meet for the first time.
1265-66: Ciri trains to be a witcher; Nilfgaard regroups
Season two of the TV series follows Ciri and Geralt as they seek refuge at Kaer Morhen, where the few remaning witchers still spend their winters. Ciri trains for a time to be a witcher herself, while Geralt, Vesemir and the sorceress Triss Merigold try to help her understand her mysterious magical powers.
Meanwhile Yennefer, who finds herself the prisoner of the mage of Nilfgaard Fringilla Vigo, struggles to reconnect with her powers, having lost them at the Battle of Sodden Hill. Fringilla also makes a new ally for Nilfgaard in the elves of Francesca Findabair. And the White Flame, Emperor Emhyr var Emreis, arrives at Cintra, only to reveal that he is none other than Ciri’s supposedly-long-dead father Duny.
1266-7: The conclave of mages
Season Three begins six months later, with Geralt, Yen and Ciri on the run trying to figure out how to protect Ciri from the many forces now after her, while also rooting out who amongst the Brotherhood of sorcerers is secretly serving Nilfgaard. At the Conclave of Mages Geralt and Yen come to the conclusion that Stegobor is the turncoat with a plan to destroy all the Elves of the Continent, and have him arrested, only to find out that in fact it’s Vilgefortz who is working for Nilfgaard, just as he and the Emperor set their own plans for the Conclave into motion...
Year ????: Seanchaí's Era
While Blood Origin takes place long before The Witcher, it also introduced a female Elven shapechanger who seems to be a time traveler from some unknown future. We learn almost nothing about Seanchaí from the series, not even when she’s from, or whether she’s from the same sphere as everyone else. Her story is clearly still to be told...