pavetta only appears in the short story “a question of price”, contained within the last wish, but i find that the few lines of her characterization contain ample evidence for her to be neurodivergent, specifically autistic. i’ve compiled the passages that gave me this impression, along with elaborations on each, below.
Preceded by the castellan and a fair-haired page in a scarlet doublet, the princess descended slowly, her head lowered.
this is the first, but far from the last, mention of pavetta keeping her head lowered or not making eye contact. others include:
Her eyes were permanently lowered, hidden behind her long lashes even during the noisy toasts raised to her around the table.
[T]he princess was sitting motionless, her head lowered.
lack of eye contact is one of the best known signs of autism. this is part of a general lack of attention to social stimuli, which may manifest in not imitating or responding to emotions; failure to respond to social cues; abnormal body posturing; difficulty communicating nonverbally; a lower ability to define/recognize her own emotions; and problems with facial expressions, such as smiling seldom. all of the aforementioned symptoms are explicitly present in the story, or at the least implied.
pavetta does not respond to social cues even when toasts are raised to her, as noted by the narrator himself, and certainly does not imitate the guests’ emotions. as for abnormal body posturing, she is noted more than once to be sitting “motionless”, without even a single gesture, which also indicates difficulty communicating nonverbally. she remains completely still even as the argument between her mother and her lover unfolds, even through an event that made her feel tense ( as evidenced by the force shifting and growing stronger as it happened ), which indicates a lower capacity of recognizing and expressing her own emotions.
as for problems with facial expressions, pavetta is not explicitly mentioned to have trouble in that area. rather, her facial expression is noted only a handful of times, in stark contrast with her mother, whose “arsenal of smiles” is described in detail. the first time her expression is described is well into the short story, when she has already unleashed the force, in the passage “Without ceasing to shout, she turned her head towards them and her petite face shrunk into a sinister grimace”. this lack of description — especially contrasted with the extensive detail given to calanthe — implies that there isn’t much to be described.
another important sign of autism is an impairment of communication, which may include diminished responsiveness and problems with two-way conversations. both of these signs are explicit in the narrative:
‘Let’s put an end to this. Pavetta! You see who, or rather what, is standing in front of you, claiming you for himself. In accordance with the Law of Surprise and eternal custom, the decision is yours. Answer. One word from you is enough. Yes, and you become the property, the conquest, of this monster. No, and you will never have to see him again.’
'Pavetta!’ Calanthe repeated. 'Answer. Do you choose to leave with this creature?’
Pavetta raised her head. 'Yes.’
The knightly islander immediately filled her goblet and entertained her with conversation. Geralt didn’t notice her answer with more than a word.
another symptom of autism is trouble with communicating verbally, and about one-third of autistic children are completely nonverbal. while pavetta is not strictly nonverbal, she does not respond with more than a word throughout the short story. ( interestingly, calanthe herself notes that “one word from you is enough”, perhaps knowing of her daughter’s difficulty. ) in fact, she is shown to prefer using no words at all where possible:
'Pavetta! Since when?’ The princess lowered her head and raised a finger.
'Pavetta? You haven’t changed your mind, have you?’
The princess shook her head eagerly.
these passages also show her communicating nonverbally, which may seem a contradiction to my earlier statement, but this may be explained by the fact that her interlocutor in both instances is calanthe, whom she is close to and therefore more comfortable with. speaking of calanthe, she knows that pavetta means a year by raising her finger, not a week or a month, which implies she is used to communicating with her daughter in this manner rather than verbally.
autism is also often associated with sensory issues. this may affect all five senses differently. pavetta permanently keeping her head lowered, as mentioned above, may indicate not only a discomfort with eye contact but also that she finds the ambient lights too bright, which means an over-sensitive sight.
however, the one sense particularly evident in the short story is touch:
Pavetta was adorned only with a tiara ornamented with a delicately worked jewel and a belt of tiny golden links which girded her long silvery-blue dress at the hips.
while her lack of adornments despite her station could easily be attributed to modesty, her mother says before her arrival, “If Pavetta has stopped preening in front of the looking-glass she’ll be here presently.”. this indicates the exact opposite
— that she is rather vain. a perfectly logical explanation, then, is a tolerance for only certain types of clothing or textures. in other words, she avoids wearing jewelry because the metal in contact with her skin causes discomfort. there is a second passage that indicates she is over-sensitive regarding touch:
Pavetta flopped heavily to the ground and started to weep. […] A few knights, still able to stand, were trying to lift Pavetta, but she pushed their hands aside, got up on her own and, unsteadily, walked towards the hearth.
given the fact that her lover was nearly killed and she had an outburst which led to losing all control of herself, unleashing powers she didn’t know she had for the first time, almost destroying her own home and inadvertently leaving those present wounded or dead, i have difficulty believing that pavetta would refuse aid to try and appears independent, or any other similar reason. she is weeping, and terrified. rather, she refuses because she is uncomfortable with being touched.
'Dunyyyyyyy!’ Pavetta shrilled as she jumped onto the chair. […] Pavetta’s cries were sounding more and more unnatural. […] Pavetta’s cries reached a peak and suddenly broke off.
my last point concerns her aforementioned outburst. autistic people often have meltdowns, which are defined as “an intense emotional response to a situation”. it happens when a person is completely overwhelmed and temporarily loses behavioural control, which may be expressed verbally or physically, or both. common triggers are sensory differences, changes in routine, anxiety and communication difficulties.
a feast would certainly overwhelm pavetta sensorially, as well as be a change in her usual routine, celebrations of such a scale being infrequent. anxiety is perhaps an understatement to what she is feeling at the time, given the fact that her lover has just been stabbed and all of the events that led up to this. finally, communication difficulties can be seen in that pavetta says and does nothing else after her mother elects to ignore her answer, when she undoubtedly wants to protest and keep her lover from harm. as such, what may be deemed an attack of hysteria in-universe is actually a meltdown brought on by multiple triggers. though pavetta isn’t mentioned as showing distress beforehand, the force is shown gradually growing as the tension escalates, finally bursting out of her with her meltdown.