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Spoilers from the books and/or games to follow!
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Emperor Emhyr var Emreis... or, to those on more intimate terms with him: "the White Flame Dancing on the Graves of his Foes".
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- Yennefer

Emhyr var Emreis, Deithwen Addan yn Carn aep Morvudd (in the Elder Speech - the White Flame Dancing on the Barrows of his Enemies), also known to a few under his alias as Duny, the Urcheon of Erlenwald (Polish: Jeż z Erlenwaldu) was the Imperator of the Nilfgaardian Empire, Lord of Metinna, Ebbing, Gemmera, Sovereign of Nazair, Vicovaro and, after marrying Cirilla, King of Cintra, from 1257 when he overthrown the Usurper who murdered his father, Fergus var Emreis, until his death sometime in the late 13th century.

His rule of Nilfgaard was highly aggressive, often pursuing expansionist policies similar to those of his predecessors. This led to the outbreak of two wars against the Northern Kingdoms, both of which he lost. Emhyr var Emreis was an intelligent and brilliant ruler. He chose his people well and crushed many plots against him. He was ruthless toward traitors and moved towards his goals with great determination.

He was publicly favorable to the Elder Race, in stark contrast to monarchs of the North.

BiographyEdit

Childhood Edit

Not much is disclosed on Emhyr's childhood until he was 13 and his father, the emperor of Nilfgaard at the time, was deposed from his title, imprisoned and tortured after a coup led by an influential aristocrat. A sorcerer named Braathens, under the service of the Usurper, turned Emhyr into a humanoid hedgehog form which lasted from dawn until the stroke of midnight. This was to serve as a way to break Fergus and force him to grant legitimacy to the coup. This plan failed and the Usurper killed Emhyr's father.

In his escape, Emhyr counted only on a few loyal acquaintances for help while hiding at Ardal aep Dahy's place. He met with an astrologer Xarthisius who led him to the North, "beyond the Marnadal Steps", to look for a cure for his curse.[2]

Journey to Cintra and lifting the curse Edit

After some time, Emhyr finally arrived in the North and used the moniker "Duny, Urcheon of Erlenwald". In 1237, while prowling Cintra's forest region, he ran into a wounded and helpless King Roegner and after saving him asked for "that which the king found but did not expect when he returned home", conveniently using the Law of Surprise.

Fifteen years later, he presented himself before Calanthe and her vassals during the feast of Pavetta's 15th birthday and the choosing from her would-be suitors at the city of Cintra.

Although princess Pavetta was to be wed when she was that year, Duny visited her one year before, and they secretly fell in love. When, the following year, the queen hosted a feast for Pavetta's soon-to-be wedding, he took the opportunity and announced that from her birth, the princess had belonged to him, and that he had now come for her.

Urcheon declared that Pavetta was to be his as she is the object of the Law of Surprise Urcheon enacted when he rescued Calanthe's deceased husband, the former King Roegner, from woe 15 years past. After a long and heated exchange, Urcheon was fooled by Calanthe into removing his helmet before midnight, exposing his monstrous form, yet Pavetta stated her approval of Urcheon nonetheless. A brawl ensued between Urcheon, the queen's vassals, Pavetta's would-be suitors, and the witcher Geralt until Pavetta suppressed it with an outburst of her power, causing pandemonium all around. After Geralt and Mousesack silenced Pavetta, Urcheon, now presenting himself as Duny, Prince of Maecht and son of Akerspaark, regained human form as it had struck midnight. Gaining Calanthe's forgiveness and approval of being together with her daughter, Duny's curse is lifted.

After thanking Geralt, he and his future wife were surprised with the news that Pavetta was pregnant, and Duny was soon to be a father.[3]

When the child was born, they named her Cirilla.

Reclaiming his heritage and the First War in the NorthEdit

Around the time after Ciri's birth, the sorcerer Vilgefortz appeared before Duny at Cintra as an ally wanting to acquire wealth and power only the Nilfgaardian Imperator could provide. When Vilgefortz disclosed with him the prophecy, Duny decided to return to Nilfgaard to reclaim his heritage with Ciri in tow. However, under the watchful eye of Calanthe, Duny and Vilgefortz thought of a ploy to disappear without a trace by faking Pavetta's, Ciri's, and his own death on a sinking ship while Vilgefortz secretly prepared a way for them to survive. However Pavetta, aware of her husband's plans, smuggled Ciri out of the ship in time, leading to a scuffle between Pavetta and Duny as the former is pushed overboard and drowned at sea. Vilgefortz then teleported the ship from a raging maelstrom with Duny being the only survivor. Though distraught from inadvertently murdering his wife, despite not holding genuine feelings towards her, Emhyr was successful in faking his death as "Duny" and was able to return to his homeland and lead a revolt against the Usurper. One of the first things he did was that he rewarded Xarthisius with tower in the capital city for his aforementioned services.[2]

Following all the power struggles around the throne, Emhyr had all of his dead political enemies disinterred and used their gravestones to pave his ballroom, earning him the nickname "the White Flame Dancing on the Barrows of his Enemies" or in Elder Speech, Deithwen Addan yn Carn aep Morvudd.[4]

Years later, as the Emperor of Nilfgaard, Emhyr commenced the First Nilfgaard-Nordling War with the aim of expanding his empire and began by holding a siege against Cintra, where his daughter was held. While Nilfgaard's forces invade Cintra, Ciri managed to escape and Emhyr soon sent his agents to locate and capture her.

After several successful campaigns against the North, Emhyr's invasion was put to a halt after the utter defeat of his forces during the Second Battle of Sodden Hill, marking the end of the First Nilgaard-Nordling War. In response, Emhyr had the commanders that failed him on Sodden either executed or replaced by younger and more determined officials to lead his armies next time around while readying his forces for the next major war.[5]

Second War and search for Ciri Edit

In his castle, Emhyr received a report from Field Marshall Menno Coehoorn that the rulers of the North - specifically Vizimir II of Redania, Foltest of Temeria, Demavend III of Aedirn, Henselt of Kaedwen and Meve of Lyria and Rivia - had a secret council at a castle in Hagge. Emhyr tasked the field marshall to disperse this information among the mages and members of the Chapter. Receiving no further news regarding Rience, Emhyr asked Coehoorn on his thoughts about Cintra. Coehoorn described it as 'gloomy' to which Emhyr followed by stating that it was different once and will be different again, promising Coehoorn a 'beautiful, happy' Cintra then cuts off by saying that he will leave governorship to someone else and wanted Coehoorn stationed at Dol Angra after he had quashed the rebellion within the province. At Dol Angra, Emhyr tasked Coehoorn to now allow himself and his fellow officers to be provoked by Meve or Demavend and will only allow themselves to be provoked immediately when ordered to do so.

Coehoorn returned later to report to Emhyr the success of suppressing the rebellion within Cintra - despite a few escapees - and the capture of its leader, Duke Windhalm of Attre. Pleased by the news, Emhyr ordered Windhalm's public and 'spectacular' execution as an example to frighten others and demanded Coehoorn's presence there as Governor of Cintra and proxy for the emperor. Furthermore, Emhyr - impatient for Rience's report - tasked Coehoorn to have his mages set up a telecommunication link to Redania and eventually Rience, commanding him to immediately dispose of the witcher Geralt while leaving the sorceress Yennefer untouched. Afterward, a count by the name of Cahir, appeared before the emperor and the field marshall. Emhyr reminded the count of his blunder for capturing Ciri two years prior and the consequences he will face if he repeats it as he is provided with a chance for redemption. Commanding the attention of both officers, Emhyr tasked them with an important mission. They learn that the Emperor decided to arrange what would go down as a Thanedd coup which led to a new war with the Northern Realms, with the Nilfgaardian army led primarily by Menno Coehoorn.[6]

He knew Ciri would be on the Thanedd Island and so he gave Cahir a second chance to capture her for him. Cahir, however, failed a second time and Ciri escaped through Benavent's portal on the highest floor of Tor Lara. Around this time, Emhyr learned that Vilgefortz betrayed him, when in fact he was never on his side and had been playing his own game. Thus, Emhyr ordered for Ciri, Vilgefortz and Cahir to be sought out by hisSecret Service. Soon, a detachment led by half-elf Schirrú brought him Ciri, but when he saw her, he realized that he was given an imposter. Nevertheless, he pretended to believe it, while still having his secret police seek out Ciri with the ongoing war being in favor of the Empire. Also, as it turned out, a man he sent out to find Ciri, Stefan Skellen, was a conspirator who wanted to overthrow the Emperor and initiate a coup in Nilfgaard. At the time, Aedirn and Lyria and Rivia were already defeated, with only Kaedwen, Temeria, and Redania standing in the Empire's way.[7]

After a short time, both Geralt and Emhyr found Vilgefortz and Ciri at the Stygga Citadel. Skellen, who worked with Vilgefortz, was captured by Impera Brigade officers who arrived at the castle together with their Emperor. At a meeting, Geralt alone had discovered that Emhyr and Duny are merely two names for the same person. Emhyr then told Geralt about his plans. Hearing about his incestuous plans with Ciri, just because of some prophecy, Geralt calls the emperor a monster and asks him not to delay his and Yennefer's death. By order of Emhyr, the witcher and the sorceress were given time to stay together, while he left the castle with Ciri. But, quite unexpectedly, on the road Emhyr realized the monstrousness of the plan and let his daughter leave, without revealing to her his true identity. Ciri managed to return to Geralt and Yennefer before they could proceed to kill themselves.

Parallel to these events is the decisive battle of the Second War with Nilfgaard at Brenna, where the army of Nilfgaard loses to the combined forces of the North under the leadership of Constable Jan Natalis. But the war still ended successfully for the Empire: all the lands south of Yaruga, including Cintra, were left under the banner of the Golden Sun. To achieve this end, Emhyr married a "false Ciri", who he grew to love. As a result, an agreement was signed in the capital of the conquered country, which became known as the Peace of Cintra.[2]

Assassins of Kings and Third War Edit

Possible non-canon: this section is from the games and may not be considered canon

In 1271, a mysterious group of witcher murderers killed Demavend III and Foltest, with a witcher Geralt being blamed for the latter's assassinations. This group called themselves the Kingslayers and they were witchers of the School of the Viper, led by Letho of Gulet. When Letho and Geralt finally met face to face, the Emperor was revealed as Letho's patron, having supported and funded the regicides as a precursor to his plans to destabilize then invade the Northern Kingdoms. As an incentive, he had promised Letho a land within his Empire where Witchers could be free to live without the hatred and prejudice they typically experience. He never fulfilled this, however.[8]

In 1272, Emhyr and his troops crossed the Yaruga for the third time and, due to chaos caused by the Kingslayers, quickly conquered Temeria, Aedirn, Lyria and Rivia, as well as part of Kaedwen up to the source of Lixela. The remainder of his enemies, Redanians, Temerians, Aedirnians, Kaedwenis and others, gathered under leadership of King Radovid V of Redania, who managed to stop the Nilfgaardian Army on the Pontar river. Emperor Emhyr, certain of a quick and sure victory, started to call himself Ruler of the North and South. He also decided to offer his daughter, Ciri, the throne as his successor. However, he required help finding her. Having previously captured Yennefer along with the witchers of the Viper School, he made her and Geralt an offer in exchange for them finding Ciri.

After Geralt chased down leads in Velen, Novigrad, and Skellige, Emhyr sent his troops to retrieve him for a progress report. The witcher had brought with him Uma. Geralt explained to the emperor that he and Yennefer suspected that the creature may be a transformed Ciri or maybe the key to finding her. Emhyr turned to Yennefer, asking if she was able to lift the curse on Uma. She stated that she believed she could, and Geralt added a phrase in Elder Speech that Ciri told Dandelion, which would be key to accomplishing it.

When Geralt chose to seek help against Eredin, he spoke with Emhyr, explaining that he had found Ciri's location but, as soon as he would get to her, the Wild Hunt would attack, so he created a plan to bring the battle to Kaer Morhen. Emhyr and Geralt ultimately disagreed on who would command Nilfgaard's forces but when a second battle approached, this time on the shores of Undvik, Geralt was more or less forced to agree with Nilfgaardian support and was given an army under the leadership of Duke var Attre.[9]

Later reign Edit

In 1290, he granted a title of an imperial treasurer of the crown to his confidant, Peter Evertsen.[7]

Journal entry Edit

Few names in the Continent's history arouse as much terror and respect as that of Emhyr var Emreis, Deithwen Addan yn Carn aep Morvudd - the White Flame Dancing on the Graves of his Foes. Emperor of Nilfgaard, lord of Metinna, Ebbing and Gemmera, sovereign of Nazair and Vicovaro, he was ruler of half the civilized world and aspiring conqueror of the other half. He was a personage whose deeds and decisions shaped the fates of whole kingdoms and populations.
What then could he possible want of a simple witcher?
The emperor clearly and succinctly laid out what he wanted. His daughter and Geralt's ward, Cirilla, was in great danger, for the Wild Hunt was on her trail. Geralt, a superb tracker linked to Emhyr's daughter by the iron bonds of Destiny, stood a better chance of finding her than anyone else in the world.

Associated quests Edit

Gwent Edit

There are also five leader cards with Emhyr's name as leader of Nilfgaardian Empire Gwent deck. Four of which are in base game and fifth appears with Hearts of Stone expansion.

Trivia Edit

  • In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, English version of Emhyr is voiced by famous British actor Charles Dance, who played Tywin Lannister on the HBO series Game of Thrones for example. Even the original model of Emhyr, made by Arkadiusz Matyszewski, resembled Charles Dance more but was later changed.
  • Since he is the son-in-law of Eist Tuirseach (through Skelliger's stepdaughter Pavetta), he is related to two Skelligan Clans through marriage; the an Craites (Crach is his cousin-in-law) and, of course, his father-in-law. This is why his titles theoretically include "The Heir of Ard Skellig and An Skellig" since he has no real claim to Undvik, Faroe, or Hindarsfjall.
  • The character of Duny appeared in the 6th episode "Calanthe" in the TV series as well as the feature movie played by Dariusz Jakubowski

Notes Edit

  • Emhyr's fate at the ending of The Witcher 3 depends on the player's actions but is not considered canon. The possible endings are:
    • If Radovid or Dijkstra rule the north: Emhyr is killed for losing the war
    • If Radovid and Dijkstra are killed: Emhyr survives and kills off those who opposed him
    • If he won the war and Ciri visited him and survived: Emhyr will abdicate the throne to his daughter

Video Edit

The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt - Charles Dance02:09

The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt - Charles Dance

Gallery Edit

References Edit

  1. in The Witcher game series
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 The Lady of the Lake
  3. A Question of Price short story
  4. What shall become of Temeria?
  5. Sword of Destiny
  6. Blood of Elves
  7. 7.0 7.1 Time of Contempt
  8. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
  9. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

External links Edit

Gwent icon See the GWENT standalone game version card: Emhyr var Emreis