You’re almost done in Velen for now - the main story stuff, anyways - but before you head north to Novigrad and its environs, let’s go tell the Baron what you learned in Crookback Bog. After haggling over the terms and listening to the Baron air more dirty laundry, give your opinion of the matter, then tell him where Anna is. Naturally, the Baron decides to take hasty - and professionally ill-advised - action, then he tells you more about Ciri…
|Important Items in this Area|
Prerequisites to Witcher 3’s Return to Crookback Bog
To get started with this quest, you first need to finish with some of the more pressing matters the baron has. You will need to make yourway through the Family Matters, learning more about his family, and that rather scared demon baby you had to put to rest, and everything else the baron has you do for that matter. Once that’s done You will be on your way through to getting return to Crookback Bog and finishing this major storyline. You’ll also need to do that Ciri flash back where she slaps yet another nightmarish creature near his lands.
Ciris Tale: Out of the Shadows (Level 5)
You’ll start out exactly where you left off the last time the Baron talked about Ciri - fighting a Basilisk. The beast fights very similarly to your typical large flying beastie (Wyvern, Forktail, Griffin, take your pick), just be wary of the poison it’ll spit when it flies, and the poison its attacks inflict in general. Deplete its health bar, then give chase to the wounded critter. Once done, head south-east and approach the southern end of the tower to witness another cutscene. Ciri shows off some of her more esoteric skills (why couldn’t she do that earlier?) then takes a prize. At the end of the memory it will be revealed where Ciri went, and why.
Find the baron's wife and daughter.
Starting the Return to Crookback Bog in the Witcher 3
The Baron will then ask Geralt for aid in his attempt to rescue Anna, promising generous rewards if you come along. Might as well, considering how repugnant the Crones are - anything that inconveniences them is something to highly consider. Not to mention coin. If the Crones aren’t monsters, what are? And aren’t Witchers supposed to kill monsters for coin? Agree to end the quest “Family Matters” and begin the “Return to Crookback Bog” . Next destination? Downwarren. Before any action can be taken, however, Geralt and the Baron will be interrupted. Discuss the matter, then head out with the Baron. Ciri, Crones, Botchlings and the weird creature named Uma… Crow’s Perch seems to be a hub for the supernatural.
Fast travel to Downwarren to find the city… well, it was better off the last time you were here. The cause varies depending on what choice you made regarding the Ghost in the Tree during the quest “The Whispering Hillock”. If you freed the beast, it will have come to Downwarren to exact vengeance on the Crone’s servants. You’ll also be informed that some Witch Hunters were here earlier, led by a woman. If you fought the ghost in the tree, the Witch Hunters were responsible for the lynchings. Seems you might have some support - or some competition.
Follow the Baron and his retinue into the swamp, where you’ll be attacked by a quartet of Drowners (level nine). Your allies can distract the Necrophages, but you shouldn’t expect them to deal much in the way of damage, as steel isn’t very effective on such foes. Venture further until you engage a mixed group of monsters, including Drowners (level nine) Rotfiends (level six) and a Water Hag (level eight). After this you’ll reach the swamp village, where Tamara and some Witch Hunters are fighting a pack of Drowners (level nine). The Baron and Tamara exchange pleasantries, which they insist on involving Geralt in. Respond how you wish, and, after some more chatter, the two groups decide to focus on the common cause… for now.
After some searching, the parties will discover Anna, either incoherent (if you fought the ghost in the tree earlier) or polymorphed (if you freed the ghost in the tree). Shortly thereafter you’ll be attacked, first by mundane monsters; Drowners (level nine) and Water Hags (level eight), before a Fiend (level nine) arrives. It’s big, and it packs a wallop, but if you use Quen and let your allies draw the aggro while you resort to flank and rear attacks, you should be able to just chop it down at your leisure.
|For defeating the Fiend||200 XP|
If you fought the ghost in the tree earlier, this is the end of the quest. If not, continue on with “Lifting the Curse” . Either way, the results of your actions will be discussed under the “Conclusion” heading. The following rewards are only for the former course of action.
|For freeing Anna||300 XP / 100 Crowns|
Lifting the Curse
After the battle Geralt will be pestered for his expertise on the subject of curses, which he determines might be better known by Johnny, who is, after all, more familiar with the Crones. Loot the Fiend (and whatever other monsters and men died here) then head north-east to find Johnny’s lair again. Kill a pair of Drowners (level nine) and a water Hag (level eight) outside, then call Johnny out. When he doesn’t respond, use your Witcher Senses to follow his trail, initially leading east from his den. Follow the trail until it ends, then continue south-east a bit from there to find Johnny hiding in a wooden shelter amidst some bushes. Johnny will tell you what happened to Gran/Anna, and where you can look to find out more.
|For talking to Johnny||50 XP|
Return back to the swamp village, where dispositions haven’t improved any. Tell them the news, decide just how alone you wish to work, then head inside the large house to the east. Once inside, search for the cellar door, which is to the south. Climb down and investigate the eastern alcove to discover a ritual table with a number of dolls on them. Pick the “Doll with the violet hollyhock bloom” to break the curse… for what good that does in the long run. Return to Crow’s Peak at the Baron’s behest to get your reward.
|For lifting the curse on Anna||300 XP|
|For returning to Crow’s Perch to claim your reward||100 Crowns|
Conclusion: Return to Crookback Bog’s Best Choice and Ending?
Yeah… spoilers, but by now you should have done everything mentioned above, so dry your tears. If you freed the ghost in the tree it became Black Beauty, a possessed mare which - after freeing the orphans and keeping them out of the Crone’s oven - took vengeance on the Crone’s servants in Downwarren. At the worst this just spared the Eternal Flame Witch Hunters the trouble of tying some rope.
More meaningful was the price of success or failure on Anna. If you subverted the will of the Crones by freeing the ghost in the tree and freeing the orphans, it was Anna who ultimately paid the price. Cursed by the Crones, she was beyond even Geralt’s help, and shortly expired after being freed from her polymorph. This led the Bloody Baron - abandoned by his daughter and outliving his wife (as dysfunctional as that marriage was) - to commit suicide upon returning to Crow’s Perch. As a poignant reminder of what drove this man to suicide you can reclaim Tamara’s “Cloth Doll” from the nearby log.
If you killed the ghost in the tree, it doomed the orphans, who were delivered to the Crones, but spared Anna… to a degree. She had lost her daughter, been kidnapped by the Crones, and seen the children she cared for taken away from her to be devoured by her masters. She was alive, though, for what that’s worth, and the Bloody Baron was all too willing to leave Velen behind and travel with Anna to try and heal her.
In either case, Velen no longer has a master, but power vacuums never remain empty for long. The Baron’s sergeant takes up his place, promising a harsher regime for those unfortunate enough to be under his command. Perhaps the Baron will return to set things right some day, but once power is forfeited, it’s not easy to regain. In the long run, however, it probably doesn’t matter much. As long as the Nilfgaardians are pleased with the new power in Velen, the new regime is just as legitimate (or illegitimate) as the Baron’s was.
|For defending the peasants of Crow’s Perch||15 XP|
Some other content before heading off
You’re done with the main quests in Velen for now, time to head to Novigrad. Officially, anyways, you may have visited the jewel of the north earlier for crafting or Gwent on your own volition. Now, however, it’s time to focus your hunt for Ciri there, but before you can find Ciri, you must first find Triss…
First, however, there’s a bit of optional exploration you can do in Velen, namely west and south of Midcopse - the far-eastern areas will be saved until you find reasons to travel there, ironically up north in Novigrad. As far as keeping your level low enough to still get XP for the main quests, but high enough to handle some of the sensible, en-route exploration, it’s kind of a damned if you do, damned if you don’t bit of business, although playing on Death March difficulty will keep you from over-leveling too much. Most of the main quests for Novigrad are level twelve quests, meaning you’ll stop getting good XP for them at level eighteen. Rather unavoidable on lesser difficulties. On the other hand, there’s plenty of optional - yet practical - bit of exploration to do between, on the way to, and during main quests that have foes whose levels are in the mid to high teens. For the sake of continuity, the aforementioned bit of Velen exploration will be included below, for you to peruse at your leisure.