Emperor Emhyr var Emreis, Deithwen Addan yn Carn aep Morvudd
Deithwen Addan yn Carn aep Morvudd, the White Flame Dancing on the Barrows of his Enemies. The ruthless, calculating and implacable emperor of Nilfgaard, King of Cintra, lord of Metinna, Ebbing and Gemmera, sovereign of Nazair and Vicovaro. Through his iron-fist statesmanship, his expansive black-helmed power from the south of the Continent has overturned more and more of the Northern Kingdoms over the course of three separate military expeditions. His invasion of Cintra and secret alliance with Vilgefortz pretty much jump-starts the whole Saga, and even after that he's the driving force behind many of the events in the games as well.
- Accidental Murder: Pavetta's death was his fault. After she discovered his plans for their daughter, her power caused her to have another uncontrollable fit, and she fell overboard. Emhyr tried to dive after her but the ship they were on was in the middle of being teleported because of his designs, and he ended up unable to save her from drowning.
- Adaptational Heroism: To a very slight degree in the games. Make no mistake, Emhyr is not a good guy by any stretch of the imagination: he's still the ruthless and controlling monarch of an expansionist empire. That being said, his more murderous or straight-up creepy actions from the books are never mentioned in the games, making their canonicity as regards the game universe somewhat questionable. Ciri can even warm to him in one ending of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, referring to him as "Papa."
- Aesop Amnesia: The novels ended with Emhyr rediscovering his humanity, indicating that he would at least try to become a better person and ruler. By the time the games take place, however, it's clear that he's back to his old tricks.
- Affably Evil: He's a ruthless evil emperor and he's fine with it, but he's not The Caligula either, and knows when not to play up the fearsome image. Though he has a sudden change of heart at the last moment. In fact, he considers Geralt his friend and is still grateful to him for his role in removing the spell that made him into a giant hedgehog knight in his youth. It still doesn't stop him from his machinations and conquests (and trying to kill Geralt — nothing personal, only business), though.
- Arch-Enemy: He's definitely considered to be one In-Universe for Radovid. Many characters who are involved (or at least interested) in the war are constantly comparing the two and speculating as to which one will defeat the other.
- Arc Villain: In the novels. Hes the Big Bad of the War Arc that runs parallel to Geralt and Ciris respective stories.
- The Bad Guy Wins: For a certain definition of "win", and depending on what choices Geralt makes in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. He can finally accomplish what he set out to do in the books and conquer all the continental Northern Kingdoms. And if Ciri chooses to become Empress, then he gets his heir as well. On the other hand, he half retires and is half forced out of ruling the empire he built, and Ciri makes it clear she won't be his puppet.
- Baleful Polymorph: Back in his youth, he was turned into a hedgehog knight. Geralt helped him then.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: He's introduced in the "Question of Price" short story as a charming knight who is in love with Princess Paveta, his future wife and Ciri's mother. His reappearance reveals that it was all an act, that he never cared for Paveta, and that he was secretly the heir to The Empire with aims towards world domination.
- Big Bad: Subverted. Upon his introduction, Emhyr is set up as a textbook Big Bad - being a ruthless, calculating Chessmaster who heads the setting's evil empire and who has a personal stake in hounding protagonists Geralt and Ciri. With that said, his role as a villain remains largely detached from the main narrative. He prefers to focus on managing his empire and reserves the role of dealing with the heroes. to his underlings, all of whom end up betraying him to pursue their own agendas. This trend continues in the games. See Greater-Scope Villain and Villain of Another Story for details.
- Chekhov's Gunman: He makes an appearance in the first book without anyone realizing it, including the reader. He's the hedgehog knight, Duny.
- The Chessmaster: The extent of it depends on how much of his machinations he actually developed on his own, as he has a number of competent and trustworthy underlings, but the fact remains that he keeps up with the best of them.
- Consummate Liar: His very first appearance has him deceiving everyone around him - including Geralt - about his true background. He becomes more straightforward after becmoing The Emperor, but is still capable of dishing out convincing lies if necessary.
- Dark Is Evil: Like all of Nilfgaard, black is the primary color that he wears.
- The Determinator: It doesn't matter how many setbacks he has. Nothing will stop this man from getting what he wants.
- The Dreaded: Whether they're in a faraway kingdom or within the imperial court itself, everyone lives in fear of Emperor Emhyr var Emreis.
- The Emperor: Well, naturally.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: His daughter, Ciri, though they only meet briefly in The Lady of the Lake. He realizes that he can't go through with his Evil Plan because of the pain it would cause her. It's implied the reason he treats the imposter Ciri so well is because he sees her as a Replacement Goldfish for his true daughter.
- Even Evil Has Standards:
- Though he reveals he never loved Pavetta, he also claims he never planned on killing her, no matter how inconvenient it'd be to keep her alive. The knowledge that he killed his own wife—albeit accidentally—still causes him to feel guilt.
- His original plan was to marry his daughter—who was unaware of their relation—so he could impregnate her, passing her god-like power down to their heir, who would one day use it to save the world from its prophesied doom. In The Lady of the Lake, what prompts Emhyr's Heel Realization is that he can't cross that moral line, even if the ultimate goal is well-intentioned.
- Evil Overlord: Though more in image than in personal brutishness.
- Evil Sounds Deep: Emhyr speaks in a very deep, refined tone of voice, courtesy of Charles Dance.
- Evil vs. Evil: Arguably what his war in the third game amounts to. Sure, The Empire that he leads started the war and has spared no blood in waging it. With that said, they are fighting against a coalition of nations led by The Caligula who is doing more harm to his people than the empire he's fighting is.
- Heel Realization: Undergoes one at the end of the novels. His meeting with Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri moves him deeply to a point where he realizes that being a Well-Intentioned Extremist can only go so far before he ends up doing more harm than good. He forgoes his plans for Ciri, allows her to stay with her adoptive parents, and aspires to make better decisions from now on.
- As evidenced by the games, the lesson didn't stick.
- Hourglass Plot: In the novels, Emhyr and his empire were unquestionably the darker of the two sides at war with each other, employing unrelentingly brutal tactics against the Northern Kingdoms. By the time the latest war in the third game rolls around, however, those same kingdoms are now at the mercy of Radovid's brutal reign. So much so that a future living under Nilfgaard's banner looks pretty optimistic in comparison.
- Gambit Pileup: What happens when everybody (and their little dog too) have plans upon the plans, and are determined enough to see to their completion.
- Greater-Scope Villain: Of the second game. Despite never taking a direct role in the events of the story, it is eventually revealed that the resident Big Bad was acting on his orders all along.
- I Lied: Doesn't uphold his end of the bargain he made with Letho, as seen in the third game.
- Karma Houdini: Possibly, depending on Geralt's choices in the third game. Should Radovid be assassinated, Emhyr manages to finish the conquest he began so many years ago. Furthermore, should Ciri agree to become his heir, he gets to retire from ruling, having accomplished all he set out to do.
- Karmic Death: If Redania wins the war in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Emhyr will be assassinated, just like all the Northern Kings who were killed on his behalf in the Witcher II.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: He's Ciri's biological father.
- The Man Behind the Man: He has a hand in many of the schemes that happen over the course of the books. He is also behind the chaos that Letho causes in the second video game.
- Manipulative Bastard: Tricks Geralt and the royal family of Cintra into believing that he's a decent fellow who genuinely loves Princess Paveta. His reveal as The Emperor shows his true colors.
- Morality Pet: False Cirilla is this for him. He pities her and so treats her with much more tenderness and compassion than he does anyone else. He even goes against his pragmatic nature by refusing to have her killed even if he captures the real Ciri. By the final book, it appears that he views her as a Replacement Goldfish for his actual daughter.
- Noble Demon: Cruel, despotic, and ruthless as he is, he still has some basic decency left in him.
- Older Than They Look: To save the Calanthe's first husband and demand his (yet unborn and unknown) daughter, he must've been at least in his twenties, so when he finally married Pavetta sixteen years later, Emhyr should've realistically been pushing forty. Add to that some twenty three years that The Saga happened in, and by the third game time he has to be at least about sixty. Yet he's depicted there as just a forty-something man with nary a worry in the world. However, it's been said before: people in the Witcher universe are very long lived and age slower.
- Overly Long Name: Emhyr var Emreis Deithwen Addan yn Carn aep Morvudd, technically more of an overly long title/nickname. Doubles as Names to Run Away from Really Fast, as it means something along the lines of: The White Flame Dancing on the Graves of His Foes. A note on how he earned this sobriquet: After all the power struggles of ascending to the throne, he had all of his political enemies (now all dead) disinterred and used their gravestones to pave his ballroom.
- Pet the Dog:
- Emhyr refuses his spymaster's recommendation to kill the False Ciri once they capture the real one because he pities her.
- After admitting he'll have to kill Geralt and Yennefer because they know too much, Emhyr offers them the option to say goodbye to Ciri and then commit suicide. When the time comes, Geralt and Yennefer call out for one of Emhyr's guard to give them a knife as instructed, only to discover Ciri still present and Emhyr and all his guards gone. It turns out, Emhyr couldn't go through with his plan, so he hugged his daughter goodbye and left her with her in the care of those she considered her true parents.
- Pragmatic Villainy: Emhyr engages in equal amounts of cruelty and mercy, but not because he's a cruel or merciful man. He's a ruthless and calculating emperor, and if his soldiers are raping, torturing, and murdering their way through a land, it's because he's decided that's the most efficient way to conquer it and break his enemies' morale. If his soldiers are being gentle, he's forming stalwart alliances, and he's being generous and kind to conquered peoples, it's to ensure their loyalty and make his invasions easier. Pragmatism is one of his defining traits, even toward those he likes and is fond of, like Geralt.
- He is also not necessarily interested in total control of the continent if an alternative serves him better. He makes a deal with the Temerian rebels that if they kill Radovid, the current king of Temeria and biggest threat to Emhyr's conquest, he will allow Temeria to become a vassal state of Nilfgard, which allows them to essentially self govern and do whatever they want as long as it doesn't threaten the rest of Emhyr's rule.
- Took a Level in Kindness: In Blood and Wine, if Empress Ciri visits she mentions that Emhyr has mellowed out since stepping back from high-level politics and even calls him papa by accident. However, she feels that if Emhyr were to ever view her as a Sketchy Successor he would have no problem going back on his word and retake the throne.
- Treacherous Quest Giver: As Letho found out.
- Surprisingly averted in the third game. Should Geralt choose to bring Ciri to him, Emhyr will honor his contract with the witcher by offering him the promised reward, which Geralt can refuse or accept. Emhyr doesn't even take an aggressive measures to keep Ciri for himself, allowing both her and Geralt to leave in peace. This is likely because Emhyr doesn't want to alienate Ciri. Not to mention being in a huge debt to Geralt for his past help.
- Villain of Another Story: In the third game. Hes responsible for an unprovoked war of conquest against the neighboring Northern Kingdoms. In any other story, he would be the Big Bad who the heroes have to fight. Here, however, his villainous actions are largely detached from the main narrative involving Geralt and Ciri. If anything, his role is spent helping them. And of course, it helps that by this point the war is *heavily* morally ambiguous on both sides, almost to the point of Evil vs. Evil.
- Wife Husbandry: He intended on fathering a savior of the world with his own daughter, Ciri, a Magical Source of potentially immense power. He mellows out on the plan eventually.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: His plans are ultimately to save the world from the oncoming Ice Age that Ithlinne's Prophesy has foretold. His methods of doing so include a ruthless campaign of conquest and siring a prophesied savior of the world with his own, unwitting daughter.
- You Have Failed Me: When his generals lost at the Battle of Sodden Hill and his armies were driven back in their first invasion of the North, Emhyr had the generals responsible executed. Not out of cruelty or anger, but because the old, established leadership was ineffective and weak, and he purged it to replace those officers with younger, ambitious, and aggressive ones.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: He's very fond of this trope. In the third game, he has assassins sent after Letho, instead of upholding his end of the bargain of letting him rebuild his witcher school.
- Emhyr himself almost ended up on the receiving end of this trope. In the novels, the nobles who backed his retaking of the imperial throne are angered by his refusal to grant them further privileges and form a conspiracy against him. Their plans are short-lived, however, as they are discovered and dealt with promptly.
General Morvran Voorhis
Commander of the Alba Division, Morvran is one of Nilfgaard's top aristocrats and generals. As a member of the House of Voorhis, he is closely related to Emperor Emhyr var Emreis and highly placed in the line of succession.
- Affably Evil: Despite being a ambitious Nilfgaardian general, Morvran is never anything less than friendly and polite to Geralt and participates in a friendly horse race with him.
- Arranged Marriage: Suggests that should Ciri be found and return to Nilfgaard to become Empress, she would need to marry a high placed noble to support her rule. Morvran clearly intends that this noble should be him.
- Blue Blood: Not only is he an aristocrat, but he is a true pure-blood Nilfgaardian.
- The Conspiracy: A group of conspirators who were upset by several of Emhyr's actions plotted to overthrow him and place Morvran on the throne instead. However, they were betrayed and executed. Morvran himself had no part in the conspiracy and was spared.
- The Dragon: He is Emhyr's top general and responsible for many of Nilfgaard's victories during the Third Northern War.
- Dragon Ascendant: Eventually becomes emperor in 1290 and rules until his death in 1301.
- Go-Karting with Bowser: Geralt's very leery towards him and most of their interactions border on Passive Aggressive Combat, but he and Movran still attend and compete in a good-natured horse race
- Hidden Depths: He is a horse racing fanatic. If talked to at the Vegelbud Estate races, Morvran can tell Geralt everything he wants to know and more about the horses there and will challenge him to a race.
- Minor Major Character: Morvran is a very important and influential character in the Witcher setting. However, his role in the story is minimal to the point where he could be excluded entirely and nothing would change. Overall, his involvement is limited to implying that Emhyr is planning to marry Ciri off to him, bumping into Geralt a couple of times in Novigrad, and...overseeing Geralt's shave.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: After Geralt has his first meeting with Emhyr, Morvran states that he has no clue as to why the Emperor would want to speak with the Witcher. When later encountered in Novigrad he admits that he knows Geralt is hunting for Ciri, with the indication that he was merely being cautious as to what he said aloud in Emhyr's palace.
- Officer and a Gentleman: He's a very affable and educated man in the Nilfgaardian military.
- Villains Out Shopping: Geralt encounters him twice in social situations in Novigrad. The first time he is attending horse races with Baroness Maria Louisa La Valette, while the second time is at the Vegelbud's party on their estate.
Quartermaster of Nilfgaard's Center Army Group during the Third Northern War. Tavar hires Geralt to find a group of missing soldiers who disappeared on patrol.
- Affably Evil: Although he is a complete bastard who orders war crimes committed, his politeness towards Geralt is in no way feigned.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: At first he seems to be more friendly and easygoing than most Nilfgaardians. Then Geralt discovers that Tavar's missing patrol was in fact a death squad sent out into the forest with Redanian prisoners of war to execute them in secret.
- But for Me, It Was Tuesday: He cannot recall if one of the deserters he hanged had red hair or not. Considering how uncommon such a trait would be amongst Nilfgaardian soldiers, the fact Tavar cannot recall such a detail only a few days later indicates how little he cares.
- Karma Houdini: He suffers no punishment in any form for having prisoners of war taken into the forest and executed. He regards Geralt thinking Tavar would ever think that he would be punished for such a crime is silly, especially since he believes there is no chance that Nilfgaard will lose the war.
Nilfgaardian Secret Service
Vattier de Rideaux, Viscount of Eiddon
Head of military intelligence and one of Emperor Emhyr's most trusted servants.
- The Dragon: He serves as this to Emperor Emhyr in the novels, being one of the few trusted servants not to betray him.
- Honey Trap: The woman he happens to be having an affair with and whom he confides in is secretly an informant for the Lodge of Sorceresses.
- No Respect Guy: He's publicly and frequently slighted by Emhyr for his failures to locate Ciri, despite his other successes.
- The Rival: He and Redania's spymaster Sigismund Dijkstra are frequently trying to discover the same thing and attempting to outwit the other.
- Secret Keeper: One of the few to know that the Ciri in the Empire's possession was a imposter. And during Assassins of Kings, was the only one who knew Letho was killing the Northern Kings for Nilfgaard aside from the Emperor.
- The Spymaster: He is Nilfgaard's chief spy and oversees all their secret operations.
- Villainous Friendship: He was clearly close friend with Skellen, even going as far to personaly ask Emhyr for mercy before Stefan's hanging.
- Would Hit a Girl: Suggests killing the False Ciri once the real one has been found and secured. Emhyr, who pities the girl and has taken a liking to her, refuses to let him.
- Your Cheating Heart: Even though he's married, he's having an affair with a young woman who he thinks is merely a Dumb Blonde. Turns that's just an act and she's really a mole planted by the Lodge of Sorceresses.
A Nilfgaardian coroner-black ops specialist, sometimes nicknamed the Great Imperial Nobody by those few in the know. Initially tasked with cleaning up the mess after the failure of the Thanedd coup, he later received orders to search for Ciri when hints began to show up that she might be within Imperial territory. He however had ambitions beyond those of his superiors, conspiring with other Nilfgaardian leaders to replace Emhyr.
- Big Bad Wannabe: While far from harmless, he's clearly trying to bite more than he can chew.
- Butt-Monkey: Becomes more of one as the book series progresses.
- Character Death: Sentenced to death by hanging for treason.
- Dark Chick: Differing motivation, teamworking, more socially minded than the other bad guys. Male however.
- The Dragon: To the Emperor. Later becomes one for Vilgefortz.
- Co-Dragons: After the deaths of Rience and Schiru, Skellen and Bonhart effectively replace them as Vilgefortz's cronies.
- Dragon with an Agenda: A proud one and makes little effort to conceal it. He doesn't give a crap about Vilgefortz conquering the world, he just wants his help in converting Nilfgaard from an autocracy into a democracy.
- Dragon Their Feet: Skellen purposely holds back reinforcements that could help Vilgefortz kill the heroes, since he hopes Vilgefortz will either kill the heroes himself, or the heroes will be weak enough after the fight that he and his crew can mop them up on their own. Unfortunately for him, the heroes are still more than capable of curb-stomping his forces even after killing Vilgefortz.
- Dragon Ascendant: He became one of these for a short while after Vilgefortz's demise, with he and his men attempting to stop Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri from leaving Stygga Castle. They fail horribly.
- Enemy Mine: Works with Vilgefortz because he sees no other way to accomplish his ultimate goals in reshaping the Nilfgaardian Empire.
- The Heavy: For Ciri's arc between books two and five. Sure he's answering to someone else (sort of), but he's the one responsible for hiring Leo Bonhart and personally leads the special forces team that hunts Ciri.
- Not-So-Harmless Villain: Despite everything, he can still be dangerous when it counts. That scar on Ciri's face? He gave her that.
- Public Execution: He is hanged as a traitor in Nilfgaard's Millennium Square after being arrested by the Impera Brigade.
- Quirky Miniboss Squad: He serves this role along with his team, as well as providing the manpower for several minor occurrences.
- Red Baron: Known by many as "The Tawny Owl."
- Rogue Agent: From Nilfgaard. He manages to stay under the radar until the penultimate book where he's exposed as a traitor and has to go into hiding with Vilgefortz at Stygga Castle, essentially him and his soldiers reduced to a band of outlaws.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Fancies himself an idealistic revolutionary with the potential to change the world. In reality, he's a glorified thug who's way out of his league.
- Smug Snake: He's not nearly as intelligent or charismatic as he likes to believe. His long-term goals are openly mocked by his co-conspirators, who make it painfully clear that he is at their mercy and would do well not to forget it.
- The Starscream: He's just barely loyal to the Emperor (and later Vilgefortz), making it clear to everyone that he's got his own ambitions in mind. Not that he comes close to achieving any of them.
- Villainous Breakdown: He's prone to these when things don't go his way (which is often).
- Villain Decay: Introduced as an ominous figure bent on murdering Ciri and reshaping the setting's political landscape. His later appearances gradually reveal that he's just a small piece to be used by the real players.
- Villainous Friendship: With Vattier, which is odd, since de Rieaux is aristocrat, while Skellem is not only of common birth but also supporter of democratic changes.
- Visionary Villain: He says he wants to convert Nilfgaard from a totalitarian autocracy into a constitutional monarchy and eventually a democracy where the common people will have their say and people are rewarded on merit instead of birth. It's ultimately subverted when one of his statements to his fellow conspirators puts his own motives in question, when he claims the common will be easy to manipulate. We are never told whether it means he only pretended to believe in his cause, or it's merely a spat of cynicism.
- Weapon of Choice: His is an orion (which is pretty much a shuriken), explicitly stated as highly popular within cloak-and-dagger society due to how easy it is to conceal coupled with deadliness in a skilled hand.
Ambassador Shilard Fitz-Oesterlen
A Nilfgaardian aristocrat, member of the Guild of Merchants, and ambassador to Redania until being dismissed and exiled from Redania due to accusations of spying. He was later sent by Emperor Emhyr to supposedly negotiate a peace treaty with the nations of the North, but it was clear he had ulterior motives.
- The Chessmaster: He plots covertly to sow chaos in the Northern nations on his Emperor's behalf.
- Evil Old Folks: He's an old man working for a totalitarian empire that's causing political upheaval in the northern nations to set the stage for a Nilfgaardian invasion.
- Faux Affably Evil: He certainly acts very polite around various influential people and has civil conversations with them which show how well educated he really is on matters about the Northern Kingdoms. However, he is also very crafty, tricking people into revealing crucial information simply by asking them a few seemingly trivial questions. He even has the guts to subtly taunt Geralt in King Henselt's camp about Triss while talking about a statue with beauty trapped within, the significance of which becomes clear to Geralt only later in the story.
- Karma Houdini: If Geralt choses to rescue Anaïs La Valette or help Philippa Eilhart in Chapter III instead of rescuing Triss, Shilard successfully sows chaos at the Loc Muinne summit and lives to tell the tale. Though his absence in the third game and his death in the rescue Triss route in the second game on the Emperor's orders, implies Shilard may have outlived his usefulness.
- Mouth of Sauron: He acts as one to Emperor Emhyr in the second game, serving as his ambassador.
- Shoot the Hostage: A possible end for him. Geralt takes him hostage to enter the Nilfgaardian camp at Loc Muinne and rescue Triss. Renuald aep Matsen shoots him with a crossbow due to standing orders from the Emperor, although this results in Geralt going to town on the black ones with his steel.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Even if he survives the events of the second game, he is replaced by a new ambassador in the sequel with no explanation as to what happened to him.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: If Geralt goes to save Triss in Chapter III, Emhyr finds out about Shilard's plan to assassinate Geralt and he sends secret orders to Renuald aep Matsen to eliminate Shilard, who in his view has become too reckless and has thus outlived his usefulness, not to mention a threat to his old friend.
Rose var Attre
One of Ambassador Henry var Attre's two daughters who lives on an estate in Novigrad. Geralt meets her and her sister Edna while searching for Dandelion, who served at their rhetoric teacher.
- Action Girl: Geralt notes that she is quite the talented swordswoman during their practice duels.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Although not nearly as malicious as many other characters, she reveals herself during her quest line as a vindictive, snobbish elitist. When attacked by a group of Nordlings who hate Nilfgaardians due to the war, she promises to later return and have their hands cut off for the attempted assault. No matter what happens, Geralt is disgusted by her actions and she is disappointed because she thought he was different from other Nordlings.
- Fantastic Racism: Views Nordlings as inherently inferior to Nilfgaardians.
- The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: She and Edna mess with each other's lives frequently, with Edna even writing love letters to Dandelion in Rose's name.Edna: Rosa, I had the best of intentions, you know that! I felt you needed help taking the first step... You blushed every time [Dandelion] sang a ballad.
Rosa: He'll next sing at your funeral if you don't stop it right now!
- Ship Tease: She and Geralt get along well and are quite clearly flirting at a few points. Then Geralt sees her nastier side and wants nothing to do with her.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: To Tomboy to her sister Edna's Girly Girl. Rose is interested in fencing and other physical pursuits, while Edna prefers intrigue and causing mischief.