A/N:This story is based on two fic's I was working on about two months back, the first a Witcher/Game of Thrones crossover, and the second a bittersweet post volume 3 Bumbleby reunion fic. Neither of which I think are particularly good. However, somewhere along the way I got this idea in my head while working on the two of them and here we are. This story takes place post Volume 3 for RWBY and post Blood and Wine for The Witcher, and will be Geralt/Yennefer, Dandelion/Priscilla, and Bumbleby. Maybe a hint of White Rose in there.
Blake Belladonna was tired, cold, and hungry. It had been 2 months since Beacon fell. Two months since Adam had ruined the life Blake had built for herself with an act which not only left scars on Blake but someone very dear to her as well. Yang was a warm, accepting, exceptionally kind human who lost her arm because of her relationship with Blake, something Blake would never be able to forgive herself for, and she was certain Yang wouldn't forgive Blake either. So here she was, alone cold and on the verge of collapse, in the remains of Vale, searching for someone who she knew was long gone. But trying to track Adam out of Vale would mean leaving her self-imposed exile, something she felt she didn't have the right to do.
A howl in the distance signaled the coming of yet another Beowolf pack, the fourth she had encountered this day alone. She could hear them approaching her position, snow crunching under their clawed feet, but she didn't make ready to fight them. She was too tired. She hadn't gotten any sort of meaningful rest in days, trying to avoid the nightmares. So instead she fell to her knees, staring at the right half of Ember Celica on her wrist before closing her eyes, her last thoughts before she fell unconscious were of golden hair catching fire and lilac eyes turning to red.
To her great surprise, she didn't wake to the pain of being eaten alive, but to the warmth of a crackling of a fire instead. Cautiously she inspected her surroundings, immediately spotting a long red katana resting on the ground beside a woman with long black hair, who was warming herself beside the small fire, staring intently into the flames.
Noticing Blake's movement, the woman looked to her, but didn't do anything to acknowledge her otherwise. She just stared at her intently with her familiar red eyes. Blake knew her, or at the very least knew of her. She was Yang's mother, the one who left her as an infant.
"You're Raven." Blake said awkwardly. She wasn't sure how to speak to her. On one hand, she hurt Yang, had ran away from her. On the other, so had Blake.
"And you're Yang's partner."
"I… not anymore."
"And why do you say that?"
"I got her hurt. If it wasn't for me, Yang would be ok. Adam attacked her because I… care about her." Blake said, tears welling up as she remembered the look of shock and pain on Yang's face as she felt her arm being cut away from the rest of her body. Just because she tried to protect Blake. She looked once again to the half of Ember Celica that she had retrieved from the remains of Beacon, her tears running freely as she hugged herself, trying to give herself some small amount of physical affection, some comfort against the guilt.
Raven looked at Blake as the girl began to cry from the blame she had laid on herself, and for the first time since she began watching this girl a week ago, felt sympathy for her. Before, she was just another person in a list that was far too long, comprised of people that Yang loved who had let her down, Raven herself being at the top of that list. Now though, as she watched Blake sob in front of her, she could only feel sorry for her. She moved to comfort her, sitting beside her and putting and arm around her, pulling her close, the way a mother would comfort a child.
Raven would have made a decent mother, she always thought, if it weren't for the fear she felt whenever she held her daughter. Of course she still felt the love and joy that every mother talks about when they hold their child, but it was buried under a mountain of crippling fear. Fear that she would let Yang down, fear that she would screw her up. But just because Raven had run from her family before her daughter was even old enough to speak doesn't mean she didn't care about Yang, and it doesn't mean she wouldn't try to make her daughter happy. So she swore to herself that no matter what, she'd convince Blake to go back to Yang. Maybe, if they repaired their relationship, Yang might be thankful for getting Blake back to her. Maybe, one day, Yang could forgive Raven.
They sat together in silence for an hour or two before the snap of a twig in the distance caught both the faunus' attention and Raven's. Taking her blade from the ground beside her, Raven pulled her mask over her face, getting ready for a fight, motioning for Blake to do the same. Whatever redemption both women were searching for, it would have to wait till they were both safe. Grimm disrupted her teleportation. It would normally be no problem for Raven, but teleporting two people was a different story. She' waited in the snow for several minutes, side by side with Blake, trying to get a good read on the number of Grimm around them. After giving up on trying to count the approaching shadows, she made the decision to try teleporting anyway. Opening a portal behind her, she grabbed Blake's arm.
"Hopefully this will get us to safety, but I can't be sure. If we get separated, met me at the Schnee Inn near Patch."
"Yang needs someone there for her who loves her. Too many people have abandoned her. It's about time someone comes back."
"What about the White Fang? And Adam?"
"Let me worry about that. Right now we need to go." With that she pushed Blake through the portal before following after her. The last thing either of them saw were separate unfamiliar landscapes rushing up to greet them, then blackness.
The creature moved through the land as though it were nothing but mist and shadow. It was hungry. It had not found a victim since it was driven out of its previous host, and it was most certainly hungry. As it moved across the marsh, the other, lesser beasts fleeing before it, it came across an unconscious young girl that, like it, was not of this world. A glance into her mind, and the creature was delighted to see the guilt the girl felt. It had finally found a suitable host.
Blake awoke to a cacophony of unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells assaulting her enhanced Faunus senses. Getting up slowly, rubbing her aching limbs, she took in her surroundings. The first thing she noticed was that it was bright out. Instead of the pitch black forest that she had lived in for the past couple months, she was in a brightly lit marsh, the sun shining in the sky, though it was beginning to set. She was by herself, with Raven nowhere in sight. The setting sun worried her, and even with her Faunus eyesight, she feared having to look for Raven in this bog at night. Seeing no other recourse, she called out for her impromptu travelling companion. Immediately, she heard a strange noise behind her, almost like the marsh water was bubbling. Whipping around, she drew Gambol Shroud, slicing it through the air only to hit… nothing. She was sure that she had heard something. Tightening her grip on gambol shroud, she backpedaled slowly, hearing the bubbling sound again. This time, when she looked for the source of the noise, she could see a growing amount of bubbles rippling from the bottom of the marsh. the next thing Blake knew, a human sized… thing sprung out of the ground in front of her, slashing at her with claws the size of a Beowulf's.
She summersaulted out of the way, transforming Gambol Shroud into it's pistol form, she fired three rounds into the monster's chest, the loud BANG of her pistol almost drowning out the sound of two more monsters rising up from the muck behind her. Rolling to her side, she cursed her luck as she took in her situation.
First, there was the large monster that had attacked her first. It barely resembled a woman in her later years, but it's skin was blue, it's face skull like with a long tongue whipping back and forth from its mouth. Then there were the two who had just appeared. They were taller than the… hag… thing, but only because they stood upright while the monster she had dubbed 'the hag' slouched down. Like the hag, the two newcomers had blue skin, but theirs were clearly more fishlike than human, scales covering every inch of their bodies and red fins on their head and back.
It was then Blake notice what sounded like a horse galloping her way. After weighing her options for a moment, she decided to take her chances. She bolted towards the oncoming sound, hearing the monsters sloshing through the water behind her. After running for several minutes, she at last was able to make out a man riding on horseback through the mist.
A cloak was draped over his shoulders, the hood pulled up concealing his face. Two swords were strapped to his back, and Blake was also able to spy the handle of a dagger hidden in his boot. Noticing Blake, the rider halted his horse and dismounted, drawing his sword at the sight of the monsters behind Blake. At least, that's what she hoped. Blake stopped running once she saw the man dismount. He charged towards her, showing no signs of slowing. He pulled the cloak of and threw it too the ground, giving Blake her first real look at the man. She could make out the man's white hair and catlike eyes. Clearly that's why the man wore a cloak. A pang of sympathy ran through Blake, but she quickly suppressed it. Faunus or not, she needed to know if he was a threat. Well, a bigger threat than the one just behind her.
Blake cast a shadow clone outwards towards the man before leaping up into a nearby tree branch. The man gave a sideways glance at Blake's clone before shrugging and right past it and into the mess of monsters, pirouetting and putting all his weight into a sword strike, cleaving the arm off the large hag. Seeing her ruse wasn't necessary, Blake dropped down from the tree branch and charged into the fray right beside the stranger.
"Heh. You're certainly no damsel in distress." Said the white haired stranger as he witnessed Blake expertly dodge out of the way of a charging fish-man before slashing at it with Gambol Shroud. The hit barely scratched the beast, but stunned it enough for the man to take advantage of the opening and behead it.
"Damsel? No. Distress? Maybe." Blake grunted as she leapt back, leaving a clone behind to take an oncoming blow from the hag's remaining arm.
"I dunno, seems like you can handle yourself. I'd bet you'd have this taken care of if you were using a silver sword instead of… whatever that is." The man said before thrusting his hand forward, sending out a telekinetic blast that threw a fish-man to the ground, allowing him to gut it with his, apparently silver, sword.
"What even are these things? Is there anything besides silver that can hurt them?"
"The big one's a water hag. Smaller ones are called drowners. If you don't have any silver, fire usually does the trick." The man said as he finished the remaining drowner, proving his point by setting it on fire with a blast from his hand. The sweep of fire also ignited the 'water hag', giving Blake enough of a reprieve to load Gambol Shroud with fire dust. Aiming her pistol, she fired at its eyes, blinding the creature, before the stranger moved in for the kill, slicing it in half at the stomach. Looking around to see if the coast was clear, he pulled a rag from his jacket and wiped his sword, turning to Blake as he did so.
"Well now that that's over, let's get the obvious questions out of the way. Like 'What's a young girl like yourself doing in a Koviri swamp?, Especially since she apparently doesn't even know what a drowner is.'"
Blake looked away for a moment. "I don't really know how to answer that. All I have are questions of my own, for instance 'Where's Koviri?', and 'why are it's swamps apparently populated with drowners and water hags?'"
The man let out an exasperated sigh. "Well this job's already turning out to be too interesting for my liking. Let's just start with some more basic questions then. What's your name?"
"Blake Belladonna. Yours?"
"Geralt of Rivia."
Hours later, night had fallen, and, after Blake practically forced Geralt into a futile search of the surrounding area with her for any sign of Raven Blake sat beside Geralt near a small fire as she explained the past few days of her life as best she could. She told him of huntsman and huntresses, beacon, the grimm, and her encounter with Raven.
"So this Raven woman pushed you through the portal, then you woke up in a land you've never heard of, fighting monsters you've never seen before?" Geralt said, a small smile appearing on his face.
"Yeah. I know it sounds ridiculous-"
"Not really." Geralt interrupted, "Strange portals and monster attacks. Just another day for me. By the way, you mind if I take you to meet my wife? Maybe Yen'll stop forcing me to use portals if I bring her proof of how badly they can screw you over." Geralt's smile grew into a large grin at the idea of giving Yen proof-positive of the apparently nefarious nature of portals.
"This isn't unusual for you?" Blake said, surprised by the man's nonchalant demeanor.
"Well it's not the strangest thing I've encountered. You think this is weird, try fighting a Zuegl that has a screaming woman wrapped in its tentacles."
"I don't know what a zuegl is, but for a monster hunter that seems like it would be a usual day on the job." Blake said, unimpressed.
"Well, the 'woman' turned out to be my friend Dandelion wearing a dress. The whole thing was was a plan to seduce a countess that had gotten far, far out of hand."
Blake giggled, a small smile making its way onto her face. It had been a long time since she had allowed herself to relax like this. She thought of her friends. Her family, more like. All the times they had been there for her. All the times they had made her smile. Living in what was left of Vale hadn't really afforded her any opportunities to let her guard down. The memory of Vale, what had happened there brought her current situation back to the forefront of her mind. Her smile disappeared, and she turned away from Geralt, pain evident on her face.
Noticing Blake's apparent sadness, Geralt tried to comfort the girl.
"Hey. You okay? Something the matter?"
"It's nothing. Just… remembering a few old friends."
"They dead?" Geralt said bluntly. After all, he had never been accused of being a subtle man.
"No. Well, I don't know. For all I know, they could be. I left them."
"Way you explained it, wasn't your choice, getting sent here."
"No it…" she trailed off for a moment, sniffling a little, the sudden well of emotions to much. When she had regained a small amount of composure, she continued. "The school I went too, Beacon, it was attacked. Someone got hurt. Someone who means a lot to me. The person who hurt her was trying to get back at me for something I did. He never would have been there otherwise."
"You said you're a monster hunter. The school trained you, right? It trains monster hunters?" At Blake's nod of affirmation Geralt continued. "So this guy who hurt your friend, he attacked an entire school full of monster slayers in training just to get to you? Doesn't make sense. There are easier ways to get at people than attacking a school full of trained killers."
"He didn't do it just for me. There was a woman, Cinder, she summoned this dragon to-"
"So he wasn't there for just you? He was taking orders? Don't see how that makes what happened to your friend your fault."
"He came for me. I would have died, but Yang charged him and-"
"And there's no guarantee she wouldn't have been hurt anyway. If the attack on the school was going to happen whether you were there or not, she might've gotten hurt regardless. Did she live?"
"Yes, I got her out, but Adam, he cut off her arm!"
"And something worse could have happened if they had just stumbled across each other, and you weren't there to help her."
"You don't understand, she charged at him to save me! She gave her arm up for me!" Blake stood up, shouting. He didn't get it. What happened to Yang was all her fault. Blake brought ruin wherever she went, and to whoever got close to her.
Geralt was calm, contrasting Blake's guilt driven outburst.
"And that was her choice. What he did, what she did, it wasn't your fault, you had no control over it. We all have things we'd like to go back in time and change, but we can't. We can't go back and stop horrible things from ever happening. All we can do is try and fix our mistakes, get better, and help each other through the grief. Blaming yourself for something beyond your control helps no one."
"Then why does it still feel like it's all my fault?" Blake whispered, her voice barely audible to anyone without Witcher hearing.
"Because something bad happened, and you don't know how else to feel. My friend Dandelion told me that it's the heart's way of making the head acknowledge something it doesn't want to. At least, that's the gist of it. What he actually said was 'The head likes to think, so the heart's got no other choice but to give it something terrible to think about, because it's better than moving on like it was nothing.'"
"He tell you that during your adventure with the zuegl?"
"No." Geralt grew quiet for a moment "After my mentor Vesemir died."
"Oh… I'm sorry."
"Got no reason to be. That's another thing you had no control over. You know, sometimes I wonder if I'm doing right by him. Passing on all he taught me, doing things the way he would, that sort of thing. Next time I think like that, I'll remember the day I gave a kid a long winded lecture about how stupid they're being." Geralt said with a small smile, remembering with fondness all the times Vesemir had lectured him as a young witcher in training.
They shared a comfortable silence after that, till Geralt took note of the time, and put out the fire. He got up and made his way to Roach, pulling free a bedroll and tossing it to Blake.
"We should probably get some rest. Got a long ride tomorrow." Geralt said as he got on his knees and closed his eyes, preparing to meditate.
"Where are we going?"
"I'm in Kovir on business. Once it's concluded I'll be traveling back to my home in Touissant. From there, I can get in contact with someone who can help you get back where you came from."
The sun shined brightly in the sky, light leaking through the tree canopy. Despite the sunlight,the temperature of the forest was deceptively low, and dropping the further away from the marsh they got. Soon, the two began to head up into the mountains, the trees growing fewer in numbers as the traveled on. After several hours of riding in relative silence, Blake spoke up.
"So this business you've got, it won't take long, will it?" Blake said anxiously. She rode with Geralt on Roach, sitting behind him on the saddle.
"Hopefully should take just a couple weeks. A month, at most."
"A month?" Blake asked, worry clear in her voice.
"Don't worry. My… the person I know who can get you home can also send you back in time. Not long jumps, if you're thinking of saving your friend. I'm sorry. But it should be enough that you'll get home around the same time you left. Maybe a few days later."
"Oh… Are you sure she can't go back further?"
"Not yet, says it makes her too tired. Besides, she's an empress now. Got other things on her mind than experimenting with her powers." Geralt said with a twinge of sadness in his voice.
"Is she the reason you're here?"
"Yeah. Before she came into power, her father invaded pretty much every nation in the northern realms. Thought it would make a good gift to her, I guess. Kovir's now a vassal of the Nilfgaardian Empire. So when they get trouble, it's her problem."
"And so she pushed it of on you. What is it you're doing?"
"Kovir exports more than a third of the dimeritium on the market. It's a rare ore, so when they find a deposit, it's big news. About two months ago, dwarven miners found a massive deposit of dimeritium. Apparently, it's the biggest anybody's found in fifty years. Then, a few weeks back, the miners working to get the ore out started to go missing. Rest of the workers stopped doing their jobs, ore stopped moving."
"I'm guessing the owners of the mine weren't thrilled by that?"
"Exactly. Koviri king sent a missive to the empire requesting aid, and I happen to be on good terms with the current empress. So, when the empire needs a witcher, I get the job."
"So what am I supposed to do while you're off cave diving."
"Be no diving involved, hopefully. And you're coming with me. Not about to leave you alone. Eyes like yours may be normal where you come from, but here they're an excuse for someone to start trouble with you."
"They're not normal. Even back in my world."
"Those cat ears you're hiding not normal either?"
"How did you-?"
"Your bow twitched while you were sleeping. Got curious."
"I'll ignore the invasion privacy for now. And you're right. They're not treated normal back where I come from. Someone with… traits like mine, we get treated like we're less than human. Like we're barely above animals. All because of something beyond our control."
"Know what that's like. Witchers're not exactly treated the best, either. That reminds me. Take the cloak from my pack. Put it on, and keep the hood pulled up unless you need it down. Your bow'll draw attention, and your ears will draw even more. Best keep them both hidden." Blake did as requested, and went to throw the cloak on her shoulder, but stopped herself before she did so.
"You said we're going into the mountains. Is there that big of a chance we'll run into someone?"
"We'll need supplies. There's a town along the way we'll need to stop in at to get them."
"And my bow really won't be enough?"
"Bow's aren't exactly common where we're going. It will draw almost as much attention as a pair of cat ears growing on top of your head. These are peasants we're going to be dealing with. Bows are too fancy for someone traveling through this region. Cost too much money when you're as dirt poor as these people."
Blake looked to the cloak in her hands. "Are you absolutely sure I have to wear this?"
"Yes. Something wrong with the cloak?" Geralt asked, looking at her quizzically.
"You threw it in a marsh the other day!"
"It's covered with bugs. I don't want it anywhere near my ears!"
"I'm probably covered in bugs too. Tell you what. Whenever I get home, Yennefer makes me take a bath before we do anything... intimate. There's this oil she puts in the water, kills the bugs. She gives me some for the road every time I leave. I don't use any of it, but if it'll keep your ears from becoming lice dens, I'll boil some water and soak the cloak when we make camp."
"Don't mention it. Those ears of yours must be uncomfortable enough already, hidden under that bow."
"Really, thank you. Not a lot of people would show… someone like me kindness, especially when we've barely known each other a day."
"Like I said, I know what it's like to get spit on by strangers that've decided they're better than you because you look strange to them. Or maybe they've heard a few rumors about people like you, and they think that means it's alright to treat you like a monster."
"What if you helped give your people their reputation?"
"Depends. There's almost always some exaggeration in those stories. Witchers can take another man's child as payment if they want an apprentice. Called the law of surprise. Did it once, myself. Doesn't mean people should hide their children when I go through their village. I'm not some child snatcher, and I'm betting you're not like what people think of you either."
"How can you be so sure?" Blake's voice was quiet.
"When you've been alive for as long as me, you learn to read people, I think you're one of the better people I've met. Sure, I've been wrong in the past, but you've been kind to me so far, so it doesn't matter much to me if I am. When you get treated as poorly as I do you don't make a habit of judging the few people that don't treat you like shit." Geralt was quiet after that. It was clear he wanted the conversation to be over, and Blake was happy to oblige him.
True to his word, when they made camp for the night Geralt soaked and cleaned his cloak, then hung it out to dry while they slept. The next morning, Blake was pleasantly surprised to find the cloak was not only bug free, but deceptively comfortable. Whatever oil Geralt had used did more than clean it. Blake was surprised Geralt had never used it before. Soon after they woke up, they set out towards the mountain. After several hours of travel filled with pleasant conversation between the two in which Geralt explained more of his world to Blake, the two travelers arrived in the small mountain village of Wilus, which was just a days ride from the mining camp. Geralt urged Roach to the nearby tavern, tying the horse's reigns to a nearby post then helping Blake out of the saddle.
Geralt entered first, his appearance gaining him more than a few dirty looks from the tavern patrons. Two drunkards spit on him as he made his way to the barmaid working the counter. Blake followed after him, cloak pulled over her head as she did her best to avoid drawing attention. She sat down at an empty table while waiting for Geralt to conclude his business.
Only a few seconds later Blake heard footsteps approach her. Two men took a seat at the table on both sides of Blake.
"What've we got here? Why, Shamus it looks like a young wench!"
"Aye, indeed it does Aldrik. Say, did you see what this little miss came in here with? That thing chatting up the barmaid over there?" Shamus said, getting a chuckle out of Aldrik while he reached for Blake's hood.
"He's not a thing!" Blake snapped, startling the two men. Unfortunately, they quickly shook off their surprise, not doubt thanks to the alcohol Blake smelled on them.
"Well, whatever he is, it wouldn't be proper to-" Aldrik gasped as he tore off Blake's cloak.
"Her eyes. No wonder she was with that freak. Stay away from us!" Shamus shouted, damn near sprinting away. Blake couldn't say she was sorry to see those two flee from her, but some small part of her felt a twinge of pain. Not that their judgement mattered much to her, but it did bring back a few bad memories. It seems like her memories, especially the bad ones, were front and center in her mind since she landed in this world. She just attributed it to a strange case of home sickness and tried to focus on happier memories.
Noticing the patrons fleeing from his traveling companion, Geralt made a note to check with the girl later, see if she was ok. Focusing back on the task at hand, he asked the barmaid the usual fare for a witcher, about provisions and jobs that needed doing.
"You're here about them miners gone missing, yeah?" The woman asked, while staring at Geralt as one might look at a cripple or a three legged dog. At Geralt's nod, she continued. "Figured, we don't get a lot of your kind up here. Specially since that mercenary band came through town a few months back. Got the local bandits to pack it up and go home. Not been much need for your ilk since then."
"Go home? You mean they let the bandits live? Odd, not in the nature of a mercenary to leave survivors. They rely on rumors about their ruthlessness to get work. Mercy doesn't do good for their reputations."
"No, I suppose it wouldn't. You know what folk do talk about, spreads faster 'round the rumor mill than stories about another bunch of butchered bandits?" she asked with a sly smile.
"Well news of cheating spouses tends to be a popular source of gossip. Doubt the mercenaries got the bandits to give it up by sleeping with their wives though."
The barmaid chuckled, before nodding her head no. "The mercenary's leader sat down for a drink with them. The next morning, they packed up and left."
"Impressive. The mercenary's leader, he go by the name Zoltan Chivay by any chance?"
"No. Cant' remember the bloke's name. Something right poncy though. Ogroid Von Everfek or summat."
The Witcher's expression became unreadable, though his smile grew just a bit. After ordering drinks for himself and Blake, he turned and made his way over to the girl's table.
Geralt took a seat in the bench opposite Blake. He silently offered her the cup filled with alcohol. Whatever the drink was it burned Blake's nose and she pushed it back towards Geralt, equally as silent, lost in thought. Geralt opened his mouth to speak to her, but was cut off by Blake, who spoke so quietly, he might not have heard her over the din of the other tavern patrons.
"There were some men here. They wanted… well, it's easy to guess what they wanted. I suppose it's lucky that they ran as soon as they saw my eyes. Still, I'm not sure if I should be hurt or not."
"With those types, I usually take it as a compliment." Geralt said with a smile, eliciting a small chuckle from Blake.
"So, what did the barmaid have to say?"
"Mentioned something 'bout an acquaintance of mine being here a month back. 'Side from that, nothing special. I've ordered a few things that'll help down in those caves. I've also ordered a room here for the next few days. If you want, you can stay here while I finish the job. You certainly deserve the rest."
"No. I'm… I owe you. I'm going with you in those caves. Besides, you're my only way back home. I can't just let you run off by yourself and die on me, now can I?" Blake said with a small smile.
"Well when you put it like that I guess I have to take you with me. Won't set out till tomorrow, though."
"What do we do till then?"
"They have gwent where you come from?"
The next morning, Blake and Geralt set out on foot for the miners camp. An eerie fog rolled through the path to the camp, adding to the sense of dread Blake felt. Once they arrived, Blake felt the eyes of the miners on her as they passed them by. A few of the miners waited near the edge of the camp, stopping Geralt and Blake before the leader wordlessly extended his hand to the witcher, who shook it, before doing the same with Blake. He thanked the two of them and wished them luck before he and his entourage cleared the path and allowed the two of them to carry onward.
As they entered the cave, Geralt pulled a vial from his jacket and downed its contents before replacing it in his pocket. After a moment, Geralt's eyes gained an eerie glow, the veins on his face grew frighteningly pronounced, and he seemed to move through the cave as though it were brightly lit instead of the dark, damp, bat infested monster den that it was.
They traveled in perfect silence for hours, making camp when they found a large enough spot to lay down and rest. They took turns guarding the makeshift campsite while the other person slept. The next morning, they got up and traveled for a couple more hours, the quiet only disrupted by the clink of Geralt's amulet, a noise which grew in intensity the further in the cave they got. After traveling in the pitch black for a few more minutes, they found a cave in blocking their path. Something about it seemed off to Blake. It shimmered slightly. Geralt must have noticed that as well, because he pulled a small stone out of his coat and waved it in front of the rocks. The shimmering grew more pronounced, and then a green glow engulfed the rocks. When the glow faded, the rocks and boulders had disappeared, leaving a clear path ahead of them.
With a quick glance to Blake, Geralt pocketed the small stone. "It was an illusion. Somebody with real magical talent is trying to keep people out of here. Want to see why?" he asked with a cocky smirk. Blake nodded, small smile appearing on her face. Ahead of them was a stone wall with a bricked up archway in the middle of it. An inscription in a language Blake didn't understand was written on the archway. Lighting a torch, Geralt moved towards the doorway, but stopped himself before he reached the door. Crouching down, Geralt noticed the piece of charred bone sticking out of what he assumed was a pile of ash.
"Burned to death. And the bone's broken. A fire elemental. Mages like to use 'em as guards. This one was damn strong, turned this poor dwarf to ash." Geralt told Blake as she bent down to inspect the pile for herself.
"How to we stop it from doing to us what it did to them?"
"I dunno. Bet it's got something to do with that inscription though." Geralt said as he got up and cautiously made his way to the door. Stopping in front of it, Geralt began to translate.
"The inscription, it's elder speech, an old, dead language."
"What's it say."
"Well, it looks like a riddle. 'A king has no sons, no daughters, and no queen. For this reason he must decide who will take the throne after he dies. To do this he decides that he will give all of the children of the kingdom a single seed. Whichever child has the largest, most beautiful plant will earn the throne; this being a metaphor for the kingdom. At the end of the contest all of the children came to the palace with their enormous and beautiful plants in hand. After he looks at all of the children's pots, he finally decides that the little girl with an empty pot will be the next Queen. Why did he choose this little girl over all of the other children with their beautiful plants?' My medallion's trembling. Gotta answer the riddle correctly to pass"
"What if we get it wrong?" Blake asked, though Geralt suspected she already knew the answer.
"We end up like them." Geralt motioned to the corpses strew about in front of the door.
Geralt finished rereading the inscription for the third time, before leaning against the cave wall, pondering the riddle. After a few moments of silence from both travelers, Blake spoke up.
"I-I think I've got it."
"Well, then, if you're sure, go for it. If you've got it wrong, I'll try to keep you safe. No promises though."
"That's comforting" came Blake's sarcastic retort.
"Witchers aren't known for being comforting."
"What happened to everything you said about rumors being just exaggerations?" Blake said with a wry grin.
"Well… damn. Got me there."
Blake smirked at Geralt's expense for a moment, before her expression grew more serious as she looked back to the door.
"If I don't make it, and you do, try to track down Raven. Let her know what happened and… ask her to tell Yang I'm sorry."
"Sure. We can start whenever you're ready. Tell me the answer, and I'll translate it into Elder Speech." Blake nodded in confirmation, looking at the door the way a cat might look at a predator. Geralt stood close behind Blake and held his hand up in the sign of Quen. A large golden bubble formed around the two.
"Give me the answer. Go ahead."
"Alright." Blake took a moment to compose herself, then released a breath she didn't know she was holding. She stood with a bit more determination, the change in body language helping sooth the feeling of danger slowly creeping up Geralts spine.
"The seeds the king gave to the children were fakes. The girl was the only one honest enough to resist the temptation to switch her seed out with one that would grow."
"Not bad." Said Geralt, impressed. "Here goes nothing. Mae'r hadau rhoddodd y brenin wrth y plant yn fakes . Roedd y ferch oedd yr unig un ddigon gonest i wrthsefyll y demtasiwn i newid ei had allan gyda un a fyddai'n tyfu" Geralt spoke slowly, careful to properly enunciate each word. After a few moments of silence, the doors opened, revealing a pitch black with something glimmering in the dark.
"Geralt?" Blake asked quietly.
"Something's bothering me. There was an illusion blocking our path, but the dwarves in front of the door all clearly made it past without any trouble. That rock you have that made the illusion disappear, that's not a common item people just carry with them, is it?"
"Was wondering if you'd notice. The eye's not exactly common around here, and they're durable, so if any of the dwarves had one it would probably be able survive the flames, which means that the illusion was put up after the dwarves were killed. Means whoever made this door is still, and they're still guarding it, which is odd. Notice the wear on the door? This thing has been here for centuries, but someone's still making sure whatever's on the other side of that door goes undisturbed."
"What do you think's inside."
"I don't know. Won't find out unless we go in. Shall we?" Geralt turned to Blake with a smile.
"After you" Blake said, returning Geralt's smile with one of her own.
Stepping inside the room, Geralt pulled the vial from his jacket pocket and took another swallow of the mystery concoction. Whatever it was, Blake surmised it helped with his eyesight in the dark because he instantly became more aware of his surroundings in the pitch black.
The two of them traveled to the far end of the room where they came across something neither of them suspected. At the end of this large room were 25 statues carved out of green crystal, each depicting a knight standing proud, weapon in hand.
"This was what the doors were guarding? A few old statues? Death by incineration seems unnecessary just to guard all this." Blake said, slightly flabbergasted.
"Thinking the same thing. Unless these aren't statues. My medallions humming. And look at the crystal. There's something underneath. Almost like the crystal grew around something. Or someone. Heh. Reminds me of this old story a student of mine used to love. Bout an old king who led Kovir to victory against an invader, then disappeared, his most trusted advisor, a mage, turning them to stone so they'd wake up when Kovir needed them again. Story says the mage hid them somewhere in the heart of a mountain."
"Heh. That's the kind of story my old leader at Beacon loved to read about. She loved fairy tales about brave heroes saving the day."
"She would be disappointed to see how this story ended. Look here." Geralt said as he pointed to the arm on one of the statues. After a few seconds of studying the arm, Blake noticed a spot of blood underneath the crystal. A broken bone that had torn its way through the skin of whoever was inside.
"Whatever did this, it wasn't this man's choice" Blake realized.
"Exactly. That's a compound fracture. Arm was twisted into position. Looks like his neck's broken too. All of them are like this except for the middle seven."
"What's that mean?"
"Means they were cursed, and we gotta lift it. If the people inside are still alive, maybe they can tell us who cast it. And more importantly how to find them."
"What happens when we find them?"
"We find out why these people were like this. We convince them to shut down any deathtraps down here. Then we tell the alderman we did the job, collect the coin, and work on trying to get you home."
"Someone went through a lot of trouble to keep these people trapped here. I don't think they'll like us setting them free."
"If they try to stop us, we'll deal with it. Everything suggests whoever cursed these people is a mage. A powerful one, but I know a thing or two about fighting them. It'll be a tough fight, but with two of us, we can pull through."
"Alright. I'll trust you know what you're doing. How do we lift the curse?"
"I know a few different ways that might work. I'll start with an old chant I know. If the curse was cast in Elder Speech, might do the trick. In case it doesn't, start looking around. Might find something that can help us."
As Geralt got down into a meditative position and began to mutter in Elder Speech, Blake searched the room, looking closely at every nook and cranny. After an hour with nothing to show for her efforts, Blake moved back to Geralt, only to be startled when part of the wall behind her lit up in brilliant blue light. Blake called for Geralt, interrupting his chant. He rushed to Blake's side, sword drawn, looking at the portal as though it might turn sentient and attack them. "Whatever you do, don't touch it!" Before Blake could do anything, she felt an invisible force grab her and yank her through the portal. She heard Geralt's cry of "Blake!" before it shut behind her.
A quick look around the room and Blake saw she wasn't alone. A beautiful, yet haggard looking elven woman sat cross legged in the middle of what looked like a small chamber.
"Hello Blake. I am Mierlayn, and you are going to help me stop your friend from making a very big mistake."
"Damnit! Portals. Bane of my damn existence."
After looking at the part of the wall once occupied by the portal to confirm it was closed, Geralt searched the room. His Witcher senses picked up on nothing that could be used to summon back the portal, so he did the only thing he could. Went back to the statues and starting his chant again. Geralt figured that whoever trapped the men in crystal was probably the same person who took Blake, so getting the people trapped in the crystal free was his top priority. If they could tell him who cast the curse, he could find Blake. After a few more minutes of chanting, Geralt gave up, seeing as he had made no progress.
"Don't have time for this." Standing up, Geralt noticed a small crack on the nearest of the crystal statues. Half out of frustration, and half on a hunch, he threw his hand out in the sign of the Aard, pushing the statues over. With a mighty crash, the crystal shattered, the men inside collapsing, a few sputtering and gasping in a desperate attempt to pull air into their lungs, while those who were visibly harmed when the spell twisted their limbs into place were revealed to be dead. A quick inspection and Geralt confirmed that their necks were violently broken. Focusing on those still living, Geralt reached for the man closest to him, one of the few that seemed generally unharmed. Before Geralt could touch the man however, one of the others let out a cry of rage and charged at Geralt, sword drawn.
Unfortunately for the man, his joints were stiff from lack of use, giving Geralt ample opportunity to duck underneath his whirling blade before knocking him flat on his back with a lightning fast punch. The man let out a groan of pain. Geralt smiled wryly at his would be attacker before reaching down to pick him up off the floor. As soon as the man was back on his feet, he recoiled from Geralt, reaching for his sword.
"Away Witcher. You won't lay a hand on our king."
"Relax, I don't want to hurt him. I only want to help. Who do you think it was, got you out of that crystal?"
"You got us out? Well then… thank you, you have no idea how much that means to me, but I still must insist that you do not touch our king. I made an oath. I can't allow anyone but my King's wife to touch him."
"Odd, you've got a nordling's accent, but that oath's the kind of thing you'd see in Touissant. Why the vow? Your king sick? Don't have to worry about me, Witchers are immune to disease."
"No, he's not sick, we were cursed. But you saved us from by breaking the crystal we were forced into by that… witch."
"Been meaning to ask you about that. Why the crystal? What'd your king do to wind up trapped in a cave for a couple hundred years?"
The man Geralt had attempted to help, the king, sighed, and spoke to Geralt for the first time. "Over two hundred years, you say?"
Geralt nodded. After a moment to let the information that he had lost years of his life sink in, the king continued. "It's a long story. I do not like to speak of those days, but I suppose I must if you are understand." The king turned to the knight that had rushed Geralt. "But before we begin, Gweimund, check on the men. I know most did not survive, but we can at least see to those who still live. Witcher, I would appreciate any aid you can provide. My men are precious to me, and I would see that you are rewarded for any medicines you can give us. Food would be appreciated, as well."
"Sure. I'll see if I can't find something in my pack." Geralt reached into his backpack before giving the necessary supplies to 'Gweimund'. After the knight had left to see to his compatriots, Geralt turned back to the king. "Back to how you got cursed. Who'd you piss off?"
"That so called 'King' is a vile oathbreaker who let hundreds of innocents be slaughtered." Mierlayn spat out, recounting her version of events to Blake in the other room.
"What did he do? It had to be something bad. Being trapped in a statue for years on end is a… creative punishment." Blake said. She wasn't quite sure the type of person she was dealing with. She had to pick her words wisely, or risk upsetting someone very powerful.
Mierlayn smiled vindictively. "It is, isn't it?" She said. "I truly enjoyed condemning that coward to the mountains for all eternity. He said he wished to run away here, far away from his responsibilities, so I was happy to grant him his wish."
"Wait. Could you please go back to the beginning?" Blake asked, confused. "Why did he want to 'run away'?"
"I was king for over 30 good years. I ruled fairly, and justly. I never ran from a fight, and I always kept my oaths." The king, who had introduced himself as 'King Bolesaw the First of His Name', said to Geralt.
"I was one of the only kings of my time to treat for peace with the elves who occupied the mountains surrounding my domain. While other rulers looked down on them, treated them as though they were less than human, I saw them for the great allies they could be."
"That's rare. Especially for a ruler from your time."
"You know, it always baffled me why more monarchs didn't deal with the elves. They knew the land of my kingdom better than myself, and with their help we could ensure that trade routes were secured and safe for my people. A service the elves were graciously compensated for."
"I'm guessing your deal didn't last long."
"You'd be wrong. We worked together and had many years of prosperity. Till one day a messenger from the leader of the elves arrived. Piast, one of my kingdom's closest allies, had undergone a political uprising, and it's new king was none too fond of elves. He had initiated a widespread purge of the elves, putting their villages o the torched, even in lands the king had no jurisdiction over. Naturally, I pledged to help the elves. They were my allies, I refused to abandon them, and so I brought my armies to bear against Piast's."
"I've heard a few things about a war that exterminated Piast. Nobody could ever figure out the cause though. Scholars have been trying for years."
"I know the passage of time can erase the details of history, but to forget why we fought that war… That's not right. The war was a bloody one, as most wars are, and it went on for a great many years. I fought side by side with my men, and together, we killed and burned and pillaged till the Kingdom of Piast was no more. We had achieved victory, but it was one most bittersweet. During the final battle, my son…" The king trailed off after that. Geralt didn't need to press him. It was easy to guess what fate had befallen the King's son.
"What happened after the battle?" Geralt asked, trying to avoid a touchy subject. King Boleslaw sighed, "After the loss of my son… the fight had left me. I… I couldn't go on. I couldn't even rule my people competently. So I sought a way out.
"Didn't know there was a way out of being a king."
"Neither did I, till I heard tell of a group of monks in the mountains of a kingdom to the north. They lived simple lives, lives of peace, and they welcomed any new members to their monastery with open arms. I wanted that life more than anything. So I, and an escort of my closest, most trusted companions, prepared to flee to this mountain range."
"I'm guessing there were complications?."
"You'd be correct. Before we could leave, an elven sage, a sorceress called Mierlayn came to me, appearing in my chambers in the dead of night. She had come to plead for my aid, for the remnants of Piast's armies were reforming to take vengeance on the elves. They blamed them for their defeat, you see." The king paused for a moment, the expression on Boleslaw's face growing pained and regretful, though Geralt had no notion of why. After taking a moment to regain his composure, Boleslaw continued.
"I… I too blamed the elves, for if I hadn't supported them, my son would have lived. I was blinded with grief, so I told them I would not be providing aid, albeit in a way that was unbecoming of a king."
"So you threw her out because she had the gall to ask if you'd help make sure innocent people weren't butchered like animals."
The king's expression grew shame filled as he recognized the truth of Geralt's words. "As I said, it was unbecoming of me. It's not what you'd expect a king to do, I know."
"The opposite, actually. You acted like most kings I've met. Put your own hurt feeling ahead of the lives of hundreds of people."
"Mind your tongue, witcher. He may be many things, but he is still a king, and he is my friend" One of the knights, the same one who had charged Geralt earlier, said, almost nonchalantly.
"It's alright, Gweimund. The witcher speaks true. However, I fear that Mierlayn may arrive any minute, so I must ask that you relent from further interrupting me."
"Fine then. Won't say anything more till you're done. Go ahead."
The king took a moment to remember his place in the story, before continuing on. "She told me that if any of her people died, she would take vengeance on I and all who served me. And that's exactly what happened. I arrived at the monastery to find it had been put to the torch, and Mierlayn was executing those who still lived. When I ordered my knights to stop her she cast her curse. It killed those who didn't enter the crystal sleep willingly. She threatened to make me watch as she killed my men one by one if I refused submit willingly to the sleep. My men were innocent in this. So I and the few of my companions who still lived were forced into the crystal, and then trapped in the mountain, while Mierlayn crafted herself a nearby antechamber to watch over her prisoners, and ensure that their suffering was eternal. Inside the crystal, I was forced to relive the last moments of her people, those who died because I refused to protect them. The illusions she forced upon us, they were so real, but the pain, the fear, those were more pronounced."
Boleslaw trailed off for a moment, and for the first time Geralt saw regret flash on the man's face, if only for a moment. "I suppose it makes a certain kind of sense. If she wanted us to suffer, enhancing the shock and terror of that massacre… well let's just say she accomplished what she set out to do. I hope your curiosity on this matter has been sated, Witcher, for I refuse to speak of it anymore."
In the other room Mierlayn had just finished recounting her side of the story to Blake, who sat cross legged, listening attentively. "I watched as my people were murdered. Hundreds of innocents. Children even! There were so many, all I could do was take what few of us still lived and flee. So I tracked the bastard 'king' down and made sure he paid for every drop of blood he let Piast spill"
As the elven woman spoke of her people's suffering, the pain and death they experienced, Blake found herself sympathizing with her captor. She was unsure if the king deserved the punishment the elf described, but her reasons for doing what she did Blake certainly understood. She remembered all that humanity had done to the faunus. Blake stopped herself from drifting into old, painful memories, looking up to find Mierlayn looking at her, the elf's expression unreadable.
"I'm sorry. I was just… what you said, it brought back some unpleasant memories."
"I read your mind. It's why I pulled you through the portal instead of your viper eyed companion. I knew the witcher would attack me the first chance he got. You on the other hand, I had at least a small chance of convincing you to take your witcher friend and leave. It's why I haven't loosed my elemental on his already."
"Why'd you let it kill those miners?"
"Centuries of forcing of people in captivity have taken their toll, I'm afraid. I am the fuel that keeps the spell active. I must be in a deep state of concentration, otherwise your friend wouldn't have been able to shatter that crystal." Mierlayn said, a small look of surprise appearing on Blake's face. "I put the elemental in place to ward off anyone looking for the king. It didn't occur to me that anyone else would tunnel this deep. I… I didn't mean to kill them. Unfortunately, we must go. We're running short of time. Come, maybe you can convince your friend to leave. If you do, I won't have to kill him." Mierlayn said, rising to her feet rather shakily, her exhaustion showing in every movement. She opened a portal in front of her. Blake searched her surroundings for what must have been the hundredth time. But, just like all the other times, there was no way out besides doing what Mierlayn asked. Blake weighed her options, before getting up and following after the sorceress. Maybe it would be better if she just talked Geralt into abandoning the tomb. After meeting Mierlayn, Blake wasn't sure if it would be right to stop her. This wasn't like the White Fang, where killing was done as a means to gain respect through fear. But on the other hand, the king had done good for the elves, aiding them when true bigots marched against them. It was only when his son was killed that he refused to aid Mierlayn's people. But, then she couldn't say the king was right to refuse them either. Casualties are a part of war. As a leader, he needed to understand that not everyone comes home. When it came down to it, Blake saw no easy answer. All she could do for now was follow Mierlayn through the portal.
Geralt was helping see to the wounded when the same portal that had taken Blake opened once again. Drawing his sword, he approached the abomination, motioning for Bolesaw and his knights to stay where they were. Despite following Geralt's silent order, the King's men drew their swords and formed ranks around their liege lord. When Geralt was halfway to the portal, an elf woman who Geralt had never seen before stepped through the portal, followed silently by Blake. As Blake came through the portal, she looked first to Geralt, then to the king and his entourage of knights, who looked like they could snap at a pin drop. Noiselessly, Geralt and Blake made their way to each other, as Mierlayn made her way over to the knights.
"Good King!" Said Mierlayn mockingly, "You look as though you've just woken from a terrible nightmare!"
"Indeed." Boleslaw replied. "I've been informed rather recently, that I've seen suffering from such nightmares for years."
"Well then, you must allow me to see to your wellbeing! I owe it to you after everything you've done for my people! I know just the spell to ensure a long, unbroken sleep." Mierlayn spoke, her mocking tone of voice still present.
"Enough with this façade Mierlayn. You wish to send me back to the crystal? Very well then, I will go willingly. But I beg you, Leave my men out of this."
"But sire-!" Gweimund began to protest only to be silenced with a wave of his king's hand.
"Surprising." Mierlayn said after a brief moment of introspection.
"Is it so odd for a king to care for his men's wellbeing?"
"No. But it is odd that someone would so willingly submit themselves to torture, even if they deserve it."
"Well, the visions, the pain we suffered through in that crystal, all those innocents… You know what the worst of your visions were, sorceress? They were the ones of fathers who saw their families butchered because I refused to protect them. I more than deserve whatever punishment you see fit, but as I said, spare my men. Let them walk free, they had nothing to do with this."
"I must admit, Bolesaw, I had not thought you capable of such… remorse." Mierlayn said, genuine surprise creeping into her voice.
"To tell the truth, neither did I. Now let's get this over with." The king spoke with such resignation in his voice that it stirred something in Mierlayn she had long forgot. She found herself forced to remember the admiration she had for the man.
"No! Sire I cannot allow it!" Gweimund interjected.
"You will allow whatev-" Bolesaw began, before being cut off by Gweimund.
"Sire, it is clear she has bewitched you! No man would go back to that hell willingly!" Gweimund said before turning to the remaining knights. "Men! Will you allow your liege to have his mind taken from him? To submit himself to that crystal prison once more? I for one will not! To arms!" he cried, drawing his sword, the other knights following suit and charging Mierlayn.
"What should we do?!" Blake asked Geralt.
"Try to get the knights to stop. Before they kill anyone." He said as he drew his sword, Blake following suit as they leaped in to defend the sorceress. Bolesaw, having no weapon himself, could only shout his protest.
"I came to these mountains to escape bloodshed! I will not have any more blood spilt in my name!" but his words went ignored by his men.
Mierlayn was quick to shield herself with a spell, calling forth a golden orb of magic to protect her from the knight's blades while she summoned her pet fire elemental. Gweimund drew his arm back, readying a strike to the sage's barrier. Like a coiled viper he lashed out with his blade only to have his sword intercepted by Geralt's. The Witcher then followed up on the opening by smashing his shoulder into Gweimund's platemail, knocking the knight on his ass once more.
"Stop this Gweimund. Your king's not cursed, he's just feeling guilty. If this is what he wants let him go through with it."
"It makes no sense! I was stuck in that crystal, same as him! I… I can't believe it!" Gweimund shouted as he took another swing at Geralt.
While Geralt was trying to force Gweimund to see sense, Blake was distracting the elemental, trying to keep it from incinerating any of the knights. She maneuvered around the beast's flaming limbs with practiced ease, each dodge made strategically so as to lead it away from the knights. A quick glance at Geralt and Blake saw him dancing in between the blades of the knights. Blake threw out several shadow clones around the monster and ran to Geralt's position, knocking one knight out with the flat of Gambol Shroud's blade before blocking an oncoming strike from another opponent.
As Geralt rolled out of the way of an oncoming strike he found himself back to back with Blake. The young huntress glanced over her shoulder at him. "Any idea how we can stop them without killing anyone?" She asked before leaping out of the way of an oncoming blow, leaving a shadow clone in her place. Thinking quickly, Geralt danced his way back to Gweimund before casting the sign of Axii at the knight nearest to him. The knight quickly turned and attacked Gweimund, swinging a flail at his comrade with all his might. Gweimund narrowly avoided the blow, turning to Geralt with awe and fear written across his face. A quick shout from Geralt for the man to stop had the knight pause what he was doing. All other knights turned their gaze to Geralt, the same look on their faces that was on Gweimund's.
"This is what someone looks like when they've been bewitched. Does your king look anything like that?!" Geralt shouted, gesturing to both the knight he had bewitched and the king, who had made his way over to a tired looking Mielayn, begging for her to call off the elemental, which was still batting at Blake's shadow clones and shaking the room doing so. Seeing the knights were currently preoccupied, unwilling to go on after Geralt's rather sound argument, Mierlayn dropped her shield and waved to the elemental, which stilled at her command. She then collapsed, exhausted, as one would be, Geralt figured, after holding dozens of men in crystal and forcing visions on them for who knows how long. As she tried to pick herself up, Mierlayn was surprised to see that King Bolesaw had bent down help her back to her feet. After she had gotten back up, the king turned to his men.
"It's… it's not as though I want to go back to the crystal, but I feel I have to. I stood by and allowed hundreds of people to be slaughtered in droves. Please, just go. I release you from your oaths. You're free men. Go."
Sure enough, several of the knights threw down their arms, swayed by Geralt's show of magic and their king's speech. If it was their King's wish to stay in the crystal, what right did they have to stop him? Soon, all but three of the knights, those being Gweimund and two other knights who had served Bolsaw for just as long, held weapons at the ready. The King looked to his closest friend and once again attempted to convince him to leave.
"Gweimund, how many times have you put your faith in me? Hundreds? Thousands even? And in all the years we fought together, you trusted me completely. Please, trust me this one last time. Allow me to trade my freedom so you can have yours."
"Bolesaw, I was trapped in that hell just as long as you, and I'd done nothing to this witch! I spoke out against leaving her people to die, but I trusted you. You're my closest friend. You're the brother I never had. But I've seen how flawed your judgement can be." With that, he pulled his crossbow out from where he had slung it across his back, and took aim at Mierlayn. Blake rushed forward as Geralt pulled out his own hand crossbow, firing at Gweimund's shoulder. Geralt's bolt found its mark, however, it was too late. By the time Geralt's bolt hit its target, Gweimund had fired. Time seemed to slow down as everyone in the room watched the bolt on its way to the exhausted sorceress.
Just before the bolt reached its target, Bolesaw rushed forward, knocking Mierlayn off her feet and out of the path of the bolt. Pain shot through his side as he felt the bolt enter his chest, piercing his lung.
Both Gweimund and Bolesaw hit the floor, the sound of the two men colliding with the ground echoing throughout the chamber. Gweimund shot up to his feet, before gasping at the sight before him. Bolesaw gasped in pain from his spot on the floor, feling the blood rush into his lungs. He looked around the room, noticing the look of complete horror the faces of the few knights who had stayed by Gweimund's side. Blake stared at the dying man in shock. The king may not be a good man in her eyes, but he didn't deserve to die like this, at the hands of his best friend. Geralt, however, looked as if this was the sort of outcome he expected all along. Bolesaw turned his gaze to Mierlayn, struggling to pull herself off the floor. After making little headway towards getting back on her feet, she resigned herself to crawling towards Bolesaw, who locked eyes with her, before smiling, and speaking for the last time.
"This is good… isn't it?"
"Were you actually going curse Bolesaw again?" Blake asked as she, Mierlayn, and Geralt stood outside the chamber's entrance. The fire elemental had been destroyed at Geralt's behest. A witcher needs a trophy to receive payment after all. Gweimund and the remaining knights had stayed behind to bury their dead, Bolesaw included.
"I… I don't know. There was a time when my hatred for that man was all that kept me going. I lived off his suffering. I suppose I just wasn't prepared to see that there was a good man still buried in there."
"What will you do know?" Geralt asked, speaking to Mierlayn for the first time.
"I suppose… well, the monks who lived in these mountains, the ones I… murdered. I own several books on their philosophy. I may build a monastery of my own. It would certainly be ironic for me to be the one who brings back their teachings to the world, but… a life away from it all, focused on inner peace… I can certainly see the appeal of it, and it seems right, in a way." Mierlayn said as she opened a portal in front of her. Just before she left, she turned to Blake.
"I hope you find your way back home, Blake." She told her with a smile, before turning to Geralt. "If you wish, I can send you to entrance of the cave. It would certainly save you time."
"No. Please, no." Geralt said, a small amount of panic in his voice.
"Are you sure witc-"
"Absolutely" Geralt interrupted, hoping Blake didn't speak up in protest. Thankfully it seemed the young huntress had had her fill of teleportation for the day and shook her head in agreement. Mierlayn then took her leave, vanishing through the portal to begin her new life, leaving Blake and Geralt alone.
"Geralt?" Blake spoke quietly.
"What just happened in there… did we do the right thing?"
"In my line of work, there are plenty of situations where I have to ask myself that."
"Did you ever find an answer."
"No, at least not a good one. I've only ever found a way to justify whatever choices I make. That even if I didn't make a good choice, I tried to choose the lesser evil. If we didn't let those men out of the crystal, they would have kept on suffering. If I didn't shoot Gweimund, Bolesaw still would have died."
"Why did you shoot him at all? I think he of all people was justified. He was wronged because of someone else's vendetta."
"I made a snap decision. If I was faster, Gweimund might not've gotten that shot off. I thought that maybe we could get Mierlayn to back down, and we could save her and Bolesaw both. The lesser evil."
With that, Geralt and Blake turned to the path back out of the cave, and began their journey home.
Geralt and Blake took their time traveling back out of the cave, Geralt. The once two day journey was stretched to three days. Geralt and Blake conversed about nothing in particular for pretty much the entire journey, till, finally, they came out of the cave entrance. Making their way into town, they visited the alderman, giving the man the elemental trophy and explaining the story the best they could. After accepting payment and resisting the temptation to punch the man after he insulted the "filthy knife ears", the two of them found a table at the tavern, ordering the first hot meal they'd had in days. Their meal was interrupted as the tavern door was thrown open, a man in a colorful tunic and feather laden cap walking into the tavern.
"Good patrons of this fine establishment, Today is a day I am sure you will all remember, a day the events of which you will recount to your children as they look up at you in awe! For today is the day that the great bard and troubadour, Master Dandelion graced your lovely establishment! Now, who would like to be the first to buy me an ale?" Dandelion shouted, looking around the room expectantly. Fortunately, he spotted Geralt before he could notice that, as was typical, no one had stepped up to buy him a drink, and most had just turned back to their food.
"Geralt! I'd heard you had come up this way! I was afraid I was going to miss you!" He said excitedly, locking wrists with Geralt before taking a seat beside him.
"You were looking for me? What'd you do this time?" Geralt asked, as though he were talking to an unruly child.
"Geralt! I'm to be a married man! Do you really expect me to go getting myself in trouble mere months away from my wedding?" Dandelion asked, rather unconvincingly?
"Speaking of which, where is Priscilla?" Geralt asked, suspiciously. "You're not here because you fouled things up with her, did you?"
"No, the opposite, actually, we're both in Kovir on business. The King has asked for us to play at his daughter's wedding. When Triss mentioned you were here as well, I thought it'd be the perfect time to ask you for a favor."
"Why do I think you're not about to ask me to be your best man?" said Geralt, resigned.
"Oh Geralt, the job is already yours! I just wanted to ask if I could, maybe, borrow Corvo Bianco for the wedding?" Dandelion asked with a nervous chuckle.
"You traveled all this way to ask me that?"
"Well I'd already promised Priscilla we'd have the wedding there, and I thought you'd be more open to the idea than… well…"
"Oh, I get it. You just wanted me to be the one that has to break the news to Yen."
"I would appreciate that very much, thank you!"
Geralt sighed and grew quite for a moment. "Fine. She's going to kill you and make me bury the body for springing this on her, you know that, right?"
"Most assuredly. But, look at us, yacking on like gossiping old women when you have a guest at your table. Who is this?" Dandelion said, turning his gaze to Blake.
"That… is a long story"
The creature would stay dormant in the girl for as long as it needed. The girl radiated enough pain and guilt that it could survive in hibernation long enough to avoid detection from the sorceress when it gazed into the girl's mind. It had traveled this land since the Conjunction, such things were trivial to it. The Witcher on the other hand, would be a problem. It had driven it out of its previous host, and The creature was sure he could do it again if he caught onto the creatures presence. But It could be Cautious. It could wait till the girl was back in her own world before it drove her to madness.
Raven had woken days ago in a place that was most certainly not Patch. After trying to ascertain her location by the constellations, she came to the conclusion that she was most likely not on Remnant anymore. Ignoring for now the incredible implications this meant for her semblance, she had immediately began searching for Blake. This had led her to what passed in this world for a town, which she was immediately driven out of with shouts from the mudfarming peasants of "A leshy, a leshy!" The next day, she found herself face to face with what the villagers called 'a Witcher'. The heavily scarred man took one look at her and sheathed his sword, lamenting the fact he wouldn't be paid for his time. After chatting with him for a short time, she found out the man's name was Eskel, and she had somehow ended up in the country of Redania. The two parted on pleasant terms, wishing each other good luck as they set out on their respective paths.
Before he departed, Eskel had warned the Huntress of the very real possibility of a leshen in the area. Apparently, the monster she somehow resembled was capable of manipulating ravens, and Eskel had noticed that any time he had seen the birds in the past few weeks, they had been acting strangely. Thankful for the warning, she tried to stick as close to the roads as was possible without drawing attention to herself.
On the third night, she was beset upon by wolves while building a fire for herself. Drawing her sword, she cut down the first one to charge her with such speed that the other wolves bolted, running back into the darkness of the forest around her. After finally managing to build herself a fire, she was startled by a voice coming from right behind her.
"Well that was impressive. It's not every day you see someone drive away wolves that efficiently. Then again, it's not every day you meet someone from another world, especially post conjunction." At the man's voice, Raven shot to her feet, whipping around as she did so, and drew her katana, and settling into a ready stance. The man, an unassuming elderly gentleman, skinny as a reed, and smelling slightly of herbs and roots, held his hands up in surrender.
"There's no need to resort to violence, I assure you. I am here merely to offer aid to someone in a situation not unlike my own."
"And just what kind of situation am I in?" Raven asked from gritted teeth, refusing to sheath her katana.
"Well I should think that would be rather obvious. You're stranded in another world, no doubt looking for a way back home. I can smell it all over you. You're not of this world. I found myself in similar circumstances… let's just say a long time ago and leave it at that."
"And you'd like to help me out of the kindness of your heart?" Raven asked skeptically.
"I wouldn't say that. The journey might prove to be interesting. And the only person I know capable of getting you back home safely can be contacted most easily through a dear old acquaintance of mine, though at some peril to myself, and you as a result. I trust you do not shy away in the face of danger." He said with a smile, as though daring her. Raven merely sheathed her sword with a smile of her own, reaching her hand out for the man to shake, which he took in a surprisingly firm grip for someone as slender as he.
"A fitting name, and a beautiful one I must say. I am Emiel Regis Rohellec Terzieff-Godefroy, though I prefer Regis."
Well that's that. Took me longer than I expected to edit this, otherwise it'd be out a week back. For all the people reading this on familiar with my other story, don't worry, I've not abandoned it for this, just wanted to get this idea I had in my on the page. For everyone else, hello! I'm that guy who writes, because I am the only guy who writes anything on the internet. That's just a fact. Not really, it's more like a huge lie. Fun fact, this story is based on the Polish myth of King Boleslaw, the Polish version of King Arthur, and that is why I came up with the name Mierlayn, since it's phonetically similar to Merlin. The reason I chose that particular story is because the Witcher as a series is primarily based on Polish myths, but are almost always a dark parody of them. A good parody comes when you ask "what if all the awesome stuff you see in a story were affected by humanities flaws?" the Witcher series does this, but plays it up for drama, not for laughs. In this instance, what if the reason the king turned to stone wasn't to await a time when his land would be need him, but was forced there because he did something wrong?
The next chapter will focus on Raven and Regis, and will most likely be shorter than this one. After that, Dendelions wedding, where Yen and Ciri will become far more important to the story, and a surprise visit by another RWBY character not seen in this story yet.