Anyone who comes to Netflix’s The Witcher will spend the first few episodes grappling with the same question: How is all of this supposed to be connected, anyway?
The Witcher’s timeline, which was inspired by Dunkirk, is unusually convoluted, and it doesn’t do much to make things easy on the audience. Events occur in a rough chronological order, except when they don’t. Two of the main characters don’t show physical signs of aging, which makes it that much harder to gauge how much time has passed. And the first season is mostly adapted from author Andrzej Sapkowski’s short stories, so the order of the individual adventures is often unclear — and in several cases, doesn’t matter.
It can get confusing fast, so let’s break down what we do know. The basic principles? There are three main characters: Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill), Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra), and Princess Cirilla, more commonly called Ciri (Frey Allan). The first season of The Witcher centers on each of those three characters over a different length of time. According to showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, Geralt’s story spans about 20 years, Yennefer’s story spans about 70 years, and Ciri’s story spans about two weeks.
As for the rest: If you still have questions about The Witcher’s overall timeline (and don’t mind spoilers) here’s a rough chronology of the order in which the events of season one occur.
1. Yennefer’s origin (episodes 2-3)
Yennefer’s story begins in episode two, “Four Marks,” when Tissaia de Vries buys her from her abusive stepfather and enrolls her in the magic school Aretuza. Yennefer is there for … well, as long as it takes to learn a bunch of magic. The Witcher doesn’t make it clear how long that is, but it ends with Yennefer enduring an enchantment that fixes her hunched back but takes away her ability to have children.
Yennefer manipulates her way to a coveted position at the royal court in Aedirn, and her classmate Fringilla ends up with Yennfer’s original spot in the less-regarded kingdom of Nilfgaard.
2. Geralt’s origin (episode 8)
Geralt’s origin story runs more or less parallel to Yennefer’s, but we don’t see it until the season finale (and only when Geralt is in a delirious haze). For reasons that remain unclear, Geralt was abandoned by his mother, Visenna, and left in the care of a witcher named Vesemir, who put Geralt through the trials that made him a witcher as well.
3. Geralt has some adventures, Yennefer abandons life at court (episodes 1-3)
You could get really granular here, because there are plenty of contextual clues that indicate, roughly, when each of these stories is taking place. (A rule of thumb: Listen for any reference to Cintra and/or Queen Calanthe. The better things are going for Cintra, the earlier we are in the timeline.) But honestly: It doesn’t really matter whether Geralt met a sylvan or fought a striga first. Just know that Geralt has some adventures, which are immortalized in song (and with dubious veracity) by his bard friend Jaskier, lending Geralt a kind of fame around the Continent.
Meanwhile, 30 years have passed since Yennefer went to the court at Aedirn. Since then she has decided that a life at court isn’t what she wants after all. After being attacked by an assassin, Yennefer abandons the court and becomes focused on how she can repair the damage of her enchantment and have a child.
4. Geralt gets drawn into the Law of Surprise (episode 4)
In the first big incident around which this season pivots, Geralt attends a royal ball at Cintra, where Queen Calanthe — then at the height of her power — seeks a suitor for her daughter, Princess Pavetta. Against the queen’s wishes, the suitor turns out to be a knight called Duny, who has been cursed.
In return for Geralt saving his life, Duny offers Geralt the “Law of Surprise,” in which a person is granted a boon known to neither the giver or receiver at the time. In this case, the boon turns out to be Duny’s unborn daughter with Pavetta, who will grow up to be Princess Ciri. Ciri’s fate is forever tied to Geralt as a result.
This is also when Queen Calanthe publicly insults a representative of Nilfgaard, which helps set the stage for Cintra’s later collapse.
5. Yennefer and Geralt meet, have an adventure (episodes 5-6)
At least a year after the ball in Cintra, Geralt fishes a djinn’s bottle out of a lake and receives three wishes. Soon after, he meets Yennefer, who cures his injured friend Jaskier. Geralt eventually uses his last wish to bind his life to Yennefer’s in some way. (The exact details of the wish are unclear, and a source of debate among fans.) Yennefer and Geralt have sex and begin a tumultuous on-off relationship.
Some time later, Geralt and Yennefer bump into each other on an adventure that culminates in an encounter with a gold dragon. Yennefer realizes that Geralt’s last wish involved her in some way, and angrily leaves him.
6. The fall of Cintra (episodes 1, 7)
In the second big incident around which the first season of The Witcher pivots, the kingdom of Cintra is invaded and sacked by Nilfgaard, upending the political structure of the Continent. Queen Calanthe dies. Princess Ciri, who is now 14 years old, escapes the city, even as Geralt — honoring the Law of Surprise — comes looking for her.
7. Ciri’s wanderings (episodes 1-8)
Ciri wanders around for about two weeks. During that time, she discovers she has terrifying supernatural powers. Meanwhile, a Nilfgaardian knight named Cahir desperately and fruitlessly hunts for her.
8. The Battle of Sodden Hill (episode 8)
There’s a kind of civil war among the mages of Aretuza. The Nilfgaardian army, which is led by Yennefer’s old classmate Fringilla, attempts to take a bridge that will leave the other northern kingdoms vulnerable. Yennefer and her friends successfully defend the bridge, but endure heavy casualties. After unleashing all her power at the climax of the battle, Yennefer disappears.
9. Geralt and Ciri meet (episode 8)
Immediately following the Battle of Sodden Hill, Geralt and Ciri finally meet in the woods nearby. Ciri, whose powers include prophetic dreams, asks about Yennefer, setting the stage for season two.