While my quest has yet to bear fruit, I have made progress since the Winter Council. My meeting with the Witcher Artorias was quite a fortunate one-I managed to convince him, after rather lengthy discussions about the ethics of his profession and state of being, to make me his pupil. Given my background, the first part of this was the Trial of the Grasses.
My understanding of this is incomplete, as I am neither an alchemist nor a mage. What I gleaned is that the Trial causes mutation in one's body to enhance a Witcher's physical prowess to the end of hunting monsters more efficiently. My first attempt failed, and upon my death I lost all memory of the trials. This is just as well, as my second and final attempt was almost certainly the second most painful thing I've ever experienced. I am loathe to describe my experience in detail, as it would likely horrify any unlucky enough to read my account. Suffice to say, I understand why Artorias was reluctant to inflict this upon anyone who possessed other options.
I do not regret my decision.
While I am still adjusting to my mutations-and the concept that I now have mutations-the changes have been considerable. I can feel my body's pauses as I fail to react with the speed I have acquired. Things which would have caused me strain before now roll off like a mountain stream, and my perceptive abilities have increased considerably. I did not realize how loud the din of battle was until it was impossible for me to tune it out.
It is fortunate that my changes occured as they did, as I was put to the test rather quickly. The scouting party which ventured into the blasted lands called for additional aid in dealing with the undead hordes which plagued the temple. They called upon the factions for support, the wisdom of which I still question, and black sky sent Artorias. I followed as part of my training.
I have ventured to the edges of the blasted lands before, so the experience was not entirely alien to me. This did not make it pleasant. Our path was blocked by a smattering of skeletons and strange creatures called "Shadows." Thankfully, despite my inability to cast light, our party was well-equipped and pushed through with little resistance.
This was not to last. Accompanied already by the lich Malakor, our group was led by a member of the Caste named Dimah. He led from the front, as one should, and appears to be skilled at disarming traps. We picked up an entity which called itself "the Bonecat." It sought revenge against Malakor for a slight yet unknown, but quickly went mad at the sight of Geth lurking in the swamps. I suspect we shall see this creature again soon. Not long after crossing a river of acid our journey ground to a near standstill. The undead hordes became thicker and stronger, perhaps granted greater power by the storm which swirled over the temple. I came close to death twice, but was successfully healed before death claimed me. I've never been so thankful that my throwing knives are heavier than most. As we reached the temple proper, a pair of Death Knights blocked the way. They proved extremely resilient to physical injury but without a holy weapon on hand we triumphed through grit rather than preparedness. I slew one with the aid of the Jarl of White Raven, though he would soon fall to the horde thereafter. It was in no small part due to luck and my tutor that I survived the encounter, as Artorias' light spell kept away the swarms of shadows which threatened us within the temple. Our clerics chanted a prayer to summon the Sword of Sylvia, but it was not to be found on that day. Instead, we found a map which would lead us through the catacombs to the sword's true resting place. It frustrates me unspeakably that I cannot wield the sword we seek. To have my revenge denied not by my own failures but by fate is troublesome, but I will wait. I trust the warriors of Osterra to wield this weapon well, even if it is beyond my grasp. My search cannot slow, however. Orzalon will die, and I WILL hold the blade which sends his wretched soul screaming into the void as he does.