Someday, some very distant day, I shall become a Core member and change my username to winteryEthereal.
A college student and horror/fantasy author who likes way too many things, including peppermint and /r/witcher and /r/cats.
I haven't been on DA for two years. I've cleaned out all of my Deviations because it was just so revolting to my eyes. I'll be posting chapters for Dissonance here, but if you're a little lazier, here is Dissonance on Quotev (www.quotev.com/story/11404764/…) and on FanFiction (www.fanfiction.net/s/13103344/…).
“This is Yennefer, the person I said I'd bring back with me.” Geralt answered.
“Ah, very well. You're welcome inside. We'll tend to your horses. You'll find them in the barn, in the backyard.”
“Thanks.” Then Geralt and his lady entered the house. Yilma played on the piano beneath the window left of the door while Grey and Fete danced a choreography the witcher and sorceress had never seen before. Esme sat on the couch with a cup of tea watching, Drew kneeling by the coffee table and drawing something. When Fete saw Geralt and Triss, she lowered her raised right hand, and her mouth opened.
“You brought Yennefer!” Fete exclaimed. “Wow, Dandelion's ballads were right, you're stunning. It's nice to meet you. This is my dad, Grey, and Yilma, our maid.”
Yen replied, “It's nice to meet you. Call me Yen, please.”
“Geralt, you told Yen that Cheinun and Yilma are—”
“—Mages?” Finished Yennefer. “Yes, he caught me up on everything.”
“We're just waiting for dinner to finish cooking.” Yilma said. “Should be about fifteen more minutes.”
“Ah, we came just in time.”
“Are you two familiar with the dance for my grandma Gail's lullaby?” Asked Grey.
Geralt and Yen shook their heads, and the sorceress answered, “No, we're not.”
“Well, now's a good of a time as any to learn it. We'll teach you, it's quite simple. Now, don't worry about your footwork during the rotations. As long as you do the hand gestures, rotation's direction, cantering and lifting well, you won't be laughed at.”
“That's comforting.” Geralt commented, and the Bethune laughed.
“Not one for parties, are you?” Said Fete.
“No offence, but I hate banquets, festivals, and poetry recitals. I sort of like your style, though. Priscilla gave me two of your poems.”
“Oh, which ones did she give you?”
“Thieving Behemoth and Someone's Sorrow.”
“Oh, so now you've read the ones about my dreams. That was smart of her. And no offence taken. You're a witcher, being mostly emotionless in your nature. Uh, Eskel told me about that. But my party is one of the few you'll be attending because it'll be part of your job. Yen's, too. You'll both be 20, 000 Crowns richer, tomorrow morning.”
“Oh, so now I'm employed?” Yen said.
“Well, why not?” Said Fete. “Now I've got four badass magic users.” The room burst into laughter. Some ten minutes later, their lesson came to a conclusion.
Yilma rose from her seat at the piano and went into the kitchen. Geralt saw a male elf with black hair and violet eyes meet her there from the room beyond the kitchen and guessed this was Cheinun. The elf gave the witcher a nod of greeting that was returned. Grey clapped his hands with a smile. “Well, you two learn awfully fast!”
“It was easy to learn, I almost liked it.” Said Geralt.
“I was going to ask earlier, but where's Sagan?” Asked Yennefer.
Esme answered, “He's in the barn with Maxine, his mare. Reagan came over with Alall, who Reagan somehow convinced that you're not so bad after all, Geralt. If you don't recall, Grisalt was the brother who wanted to go after Isaiah, after Peter and Alberto were murdered.”
“Huh, what do you know.” Geralt commented.
Yilma appeared from the kitchen, wiping her hands on a towel. She said to the witcher, “Think you could call them in for dinner, Geralt? You can get to the backyard through the leftmost door on the right wall of the dining room.”
“Sure.” Geralt replied, then crossed the room as the others went to help Yilma set the table. He came into the backyard and saw light in the unpainted barn a short walk away, past several rows of healthy looking vegetables. The hunter passed into the barn, and when Geralt entered the three men there turned to see him.
“Evening, Geralt.” Said Reagan.
“Evening.” The witcher replied. “Dinner's ready, so come in before it's cold.”
“Ah, thanks. We'll walk with you.” Geralt nodded, then they began the short trip back to the house.
During this Geralt asked, “Alall, I hope you don't mind me asking, but how come you changed your mind?”
The uncle replied, “Well, Jeremiah said to me, Grisalt, Reagan and our wives that we should go for your head, 'cause you're one and same as this Isaiah fellow. Grisalt believed him, being the one who wanted to go after Isaiah just 'cause our dad, Donovan, said that they're all rotten. You heard the story of our grandma and aunt being killed by some other bad witcher, yeah?”
The men entered the house, where the dining table had been set with chicken and various vegetables. The Bethune and dark brown haired twins Geralt assumed to be Tusha and Marina sat with Yilma and Cheinun. The arrivals joined them and filled their plates with the others. Geralt said to Alall, “Yeah, I've heard it.”
“Well, you and Isaiah being the same ain't true, I told myself, 'cause then you would have attacked us on sight.” Alall said. “So I told them to bugger off, 'cause you and Isaiah not only look different from each other but you're completely different men. Then Reagan and I left with a few things for the night. Don't think they'll come for us, seeing as Grisalt couldn't make it up the stairs, ha ha ha!”
“Yeah,” Reagan nodded with a laugh. “Jeremiah couldn't speak clearly the entire time. Fell asleep in his chair halfway through, so it was just Grisalt drunk and shouting! I doubt they'll come to the party and be much of a bother. But if they are, Geralt, you've got my boys, Alall's boys and Grey's boys, of course, to interfere.”
“Thank you.” Said Geralt. “Never had soldiers to protect me like this. I appreciate it, but don't forget that your family and the Bethune are the ones who are really in danger.”
“Don't mention it, and don't worry, we haven't forgotten.”
“Is this truce just for one night?”
“Nah, not for me and Reagan, certainly.” Said Alall. “I really do apologize for treating you like a monster, too. Heh, if you can help our two lovebirds,” He patted a shoulder of Sagan's, and the boy grinned. “Then you're all right in my books.”
“Geralt, these are our other daughters, Tusha and Marina, the youngest.” Said Esme, nodding to the two. “Girls, say hello.”
“Hi, mister witcher.” Peeped Marina.
“Hi.” Added Tusha.
“Hello.” Geralt replied.
“Well, let's give thanks before the food gets cold.” Said the mother. “Honey, it's your turn, tonight.”
“Right it is.” Grey cleared his throat, then the Bethune and Lagarde clasped their hands together at their chests. The father looked to his guests. “You're welcome to join us. Ah, but you might not be familiar with our family prayer.”
“Nope, not familiar.” Replied the witcher, and the sorceress shook her head.
“This prayer, Six Pieces, was written by my mother, Gail. It's not to any deity, just to the laws of nature that brought this food to our table. It's short, unlike my mother's lullaby. And it has been humbly stolen by the Lagarde for many years.”
Reagan laughed. “Hey now, it's a nice prayer!”
Grey asked, “Will you join us?”
“I will.” Yen said, and folded her hands.
“Why not.” Geralt gave a nod, then folded his hands. Grey licked his lips, then recited the prayer.
“The green that creatures, mammals and time eat are one, two and three.
The flesh that creatures, mammals and time eat are four, five and six.
Until four and five, you shall dine with me.
At four and five, when none here are alive,
One piece of us shall then give thanks to the six pieces of grace.
And one piece of me shall give thanks to those gathered in this place.”
“Thank you.” The father unfolded his hands, and everyone seated echoed him and relaxed their hands. “Dig in, everyone.” They began to eat, and at some point Esme stopped and held a hand to her stomach, her face paling quickly. “You all right, honey?”
“Ugh, no.” Esme answered. She exhaled through her mouth, and during her inhale began to vomit. The mother covered her mouth, the other ladies gave 'oh!'s of surprise, and Esme jolted out of her seat and rushed into the living room.
“Mom?” Marina called out, beginning to cry with her older sister. Their mother entered the open bathroom door on the left wall, no more than five steps away from the stairs. Drew looked up to the ceiling in thought of this action.
“She'll be OK, girls.” Said Fete. The sound of Esme's emesis reached the dining room, where the Lagarde guests gave each other perplexed expressions, while Drew looked very confused for a nine year old. The elven mages, Yennefer and Geralt glanced to each other, all thinking that Esme might be pregnant.
Grey said, “Not a word, you two.”
Geralt wasn't sure who Grey was talking to until Cheze replied, “Not a word.”
Fete added, “Not one, Dad.”
“Huh?” Tusha tilted her head.
“Good, thank you.” Said Grey.
“Dad, what's going on with Mom?” Asked Marina.”
“Is she going to be OK?” Her twin added.
“Yes, she'll be OK.” Grey answered. “But, uh, I'll have to talk with your mom about answering your question, Marina. Sorry.”
“It's OK.” Replied Marina.
The father looked to the Lagarde men, “Reagan, Alall, Sagan?”
“Our secret.” Said Alall, Reagan and Sagan nodding in agreement. Esme returned a moment later, looking a little fatigued but otherwise all right.
“You all right, honey?” Grey asked, again.
Esme answered, “Yes, I'm fine. No wine for me, then.” Fete covered her mouth to suppress laughter.
“What? What's so funny?” Drew inquired.
“Oh, nothing, Drew.”
“Is this the sort of thing that Mary Anne is going through? Is your belly going to get all big like hers, soon?”
Esme and Grey looked to each other, and the father said, “Guess we can't dance around it, this time. No Tusha and Marina incident, this is. Might even have to tell them what's going on. They're old enough to understand, even though the girls are ten. Drew is twelve, that's the age we agreed upon.”
“Oh, nonsense, we can dance around it.” Replied Esme. “But I guess it would be rude, and honestly a bad parenting decision.” She asked Drew, “Did she let you touch her belly? I'd like to know what she told you is happening to her body.”
“This is an appropriate time to talk about these things, in this family?” Asked Yen, with hesitation.
“Both our families are like this. Family matters are discussed at the table, but there is to be no argument. Spoils one's appetite.”
“So, Drew? What do you have to say?”
The boy swallowed some food. “Um, yes, Mary Anne let me touch her belly. It even kicked, and that freaked me out a little. Thought there was some kind of monster in there, until she said it was a baby. Asked her how that was possible, 'cause my mom told me that babies are a special kind of present that takes a whole nine months to be delivered, but that I'd have to be twelve to know the whole story. Mary Anne said it was something I'd have to talk to you about, Auntie.”
“Wise girl, that Anne. I'd have kicked her bum, if she said much else.”
“If this conversation was happening last year, I would be surprised she didn't spill the beans.” Commented Fete. “But Anne's changed, so yeah, wise girl.”
“Wasn't asking for your opinion, Fete.” Growled Esme.
“Sorry.” Muttered the girl, and stuffed her face. Her mother watched for a moment, eyes disdainful and shoulders tense.
Geralt noted on this. 'So even though mother and daughter are tomboys, they're not exactly on friendly terms. Figures. During the short time we've been sitting at this table, every time Fete looks at Esme with anxiousness, and Esme is the first to look away, her face a little more red, her breathing more tense. I wonder if this is related to their attack? I should ask Esme about this, first. Fete's account of their discord might not be completely truthful, because of her rambling tendencies. Esme might be able to tell me other things, too.'
Esme relaxed and said to Drew, “How about your uncle Grey and I answer all your questions about how babies are made after supper, hm?”
“Yeah, I'd like that.” Drew nodded confidently.
“Do we get to hear the answers, too?” Said Tusha with excitement, Marina bouncing in her seat a little.
“Yes, you too.” Replied the mother. “Finish your supper, but don't hurry.” The boy nodded again, then the table was silent as everyone finished their meal. Yilma and Cheinun were second and third after Alall to finish eating.
The elves took the empty plates and went into the kitchen, where Cheinun began to heat up water to clean the dishes while Yilma brought back apple pie, dessert plates and cutlery. “Ooh, who made this?” Asked Yennefer.
“Me and Esme did.” Answered Yilma.
“It looks delicious.”
“Thank you.” Replied Yilma and Esme.
“Dig in when you're ready, everyone.” Said Yilma.
Reagan guffawed. “You might have to give us a minute, that was a big bird.” Alall laughed with him as Yilma returned to the kitchen to help Cheinun.
“Drew, Tusha, Marina, why don't you help them?” Esme said.
“OK.” Replied the children, who stood and went to join the servants.
“So, Fete, have you written anything special for your birthday party?” Asked Alall.
“Sort of? I took one of my older songs and rewrote it, with a few tips from Priscilla. Still not confident in it, but apparently Priscilla really likes it.”
“What's it called?” Asked Yen.
“Tricks of the Travel. It's about a merchant who thinks one thing is happening is to him but another is happening, but even that's not what's actually happening.”
“So what actually happens to him?” Geralt asked.
“I'll let you try to figure that out, tomorrow night.”
Sagan laughed. “I thought you hated the ending of Tricks of the Travel?”
“I did, until Priscilla helped me rewrite the ending.”
“How did it originally end?” Asked the witcher.
“The merchant was killed by a vampire. That's all I'm saying, Geralt. I shall tell you nothing else about what all of the cryptic verse means.”
“Wait, so he lives, now?” Said Sagan.
“Not saying he does. Only saying the ending is different.”
“Do you like the ending, now?” Asked Yennefer.
“No, I still hate the entire thing.” Fete let out a long groan, and Sagan laughed. “If only I was a seamstress. Maybe my frustrations in art wouldn't pain my mind, so much.”
“I think your frustrations would be worse.” Esme said. “You suck at sewing.”
“That I do.” Fete tipped her head to her shoulder.
“You're good at singing though.” Said Sagan.
“I agree, you have quite the scale range.” Commented Grey.
“Can you go higher than Priscilla could?” Asked Geralt.
“A little, but it strains my voice, if I don't execute it correctly. Not warming up my voice before attempting a very high note also is a bad idea. I'd show you now, but this is a small room, and I've got a full stomach. Don't want anyone to go a little deaf, and I'd rather not hurl up my dinner.”
“I see.” The guests were quiet again, then Drew ran upstairs as the elves and Drew's sisters walked back to the dining room with and took their seats.
“What's he up to?” Asked Reagan.
“Getting his cards, he said.” Cheinun answered.
Esme let out a long sigh. “Now?”
“I told him his sister is on a serious losing streak.” Said Cheze. “Said he might get a few Crowns out of her. He's getting your cards too, Fete.”
Esme gave a short laugh and shook her head. “Well, entertaining our guests, I suppose.”
“Not a fan of Gwent?” Asked the witcher.
“I'm not saying it's a terrible game, I just don't play it. I'm more for playing outside with the animals, if you know what I mean.”
Geralt nodded once. “Mhm.” Just as Reagan went to give himself a slice of pie, Drew came running into the dining room. He plopped into his chair and dropped a long red tin container with an intricately drawn blond dog on its lid before him. Drew slid a shorter container that was light purple with hand drawn stars and a crescent moon on it to his sister.
“Slick move, Drew.” Fete chuckled.
The boy replied, “Thanks. How much are we betting?”
“Uh—” Esme left her mouth open, looking to the brother and sister. The others at the table laughed.
“Um, maybe just one card. No Crowns this time, OK?” Said Fete.
“'This time'?” The mother bowed her head, and Grey, Alall and Reagan chuckled.
“Hey, I've lost a grand total of fifty Crowns from this kid! And a total of 200 from Cheze! I'm so bad at Gwent...” Fete groaned in exasperation.
Esme sighed. “Fine, one card.” She made eye contact with Drew and pointed to him. “But no more betting money for you until you're eighteen, young man.”
“Thanks, Auntie.” Replied Drew, then said to Fete, “Let's ready our hands, yeah?”
“Of course, yeah.” Fete said. As they redrew two cards from their nine, their spectators took a slice of pie and began to eat it. Drew's faction was Monsters, and he won the first round by miles of Ranged Combat during which he played one spy card worth two points. Fete played with the Nilfgaardian faction and conquered the second round with a bunch of Siege and two spies worth one point. The little brother claimed overall victory on the third round with a staggering amount of Close Combat, Ethne and Fog to damage Fete's impressive lineup of Ranged Combat.
When Ethne was played, Fete dropped her jaw and looked to Cheze, who burst into laughter and continued to laugh during and after the short time it took Drew to win the game. “You gave him not only Ethne but your entire Monster deck.” Fete remarked.
Cheze replied, “After I told him that I won to you again and went outside, Drew came up and told me he was pretty bummed out that he didn't have enough cards to play with us. So, I gave him my Monsters deck, no strings attached.”
“Aw.” Esme smiled a little. “That was nice of you, Cheze.”
“Wait.” Fete said, looking from the ceiling in though to her older brother. “It was the 'draw one card at the beginning of the game' perk that drew your attention, wasn't it?”
“That it was, yep.” Answered Cheze. “But the Nilfgaard perk of 'this faction cancels out the perk of the other player's faction' your Leader uses kind of saves you from the wrath of the Monsters. You're still on a losing streak, though.” Fete bowed her head to the table, and her brothers and sisters laughed at her.
The girl lifted her head with a prolonged sigh. “Take your prize card, Drew.”
“Woo-hoo! Thanks, Fete.” Drew took one of her Ranged cards.
“Well, we'd best be off home, now.” Said Reagan.
“Yes, we'd best be doing so.” Alall commented.
“Allow us to walk you out.” Said Grey, and the two Lagarde men nodded, then everyone stood and gathered in the living room.
“Thank you very much for dinner and dessert.” Said Alall, as Sagan and Fete gave each other a quick hug and kiss goodnight.
“Yes, thank you.” Added Reagan.
“Thanks so much.” Sagan chimed in.
“You're welcome.” Replied Esme. “You get home safe, now.”
Reagan said, “Will do, Esme. Goodnight.” He made eye contact with his son and nodded his head to the door. “Come on, young whipper-snapper. You'll see her again, tomorrow.”
Sagan nodded to his father with a smile, then looked to Fete. “See you tomorrow, birthday girl, my darling.”
Fete giggled, smiling so wide her gums showed. “See you tomorrow, darling.” They all waved and said 'goodbye' to each other in general, then the Lagarde left and the door closed behind them.
“Well, I'm off to bed.” Said Esme.
“Already?” Replied Grey.
“I'm sore. Did a little too much, today. You coming up, honey?”
“In a little while, yeah.”
“Do you want me to make you something, Esme?” Asked Yilma.
“I do, but with the baby, I'm not sure if...”
“Wait, you're really having a baby?!” Exclaimed Drew.
Esme and Grey laughed. The mother said, “Yes, I'm pregnant. But how about you, your dad, Tusha, Marina and I sit and talk about this here, in the living room, before I get ahead of myself and fall asleep?” She lowered her voice and added, “Well, try to.”
“OK!” “Yeah!” Cheered the three young children.
“I guess I'll head up to my room, read a little.” Said Fete.
“I feel like going up to my room, too.” Cheze said. “Have some letters to write, now that Viba is dead. Might make security at your party a little easier, Fete.”
“Oh, uh, all right.” The girl nodded several times. “Goodnight, everyone.”
“'Night, guys.” Cheze added, he and Fete going upstairs.
“Goodnight.” Answered the parents, older brother and elves.
''Night!” The twins chimed.
“Yilma, Cheinun, can Yen and I talk to you, for a second?” Asked Geralt.
“Of course.” Cheinun answered. “We'll go behind the kitchen into the laundry room, it's quieter there.” The four went there as the Bethune family sat in the living room.
“So, what did you want to know?” Asked Yilma.
Geralt crossed his arms and said, “I was told by one of Fete's poetry teachers, Priscilla, that you two are sorcerers. Didn't go to Kovir because the Bethune convinced everyone you were just their servants. Can you tell me about that?”
“I don't see why not.” Replied Yilma. “When all the mages left Novigrad, we were going to come, too. But Thunas escaped at just the right moment, and when we got another letter from him, we couldn't bear to leave.”
Cheinun said, “Grey told us everything he knew from the letter you found, this morning, and we've heard of Isaiah, before. He's got a nasty backstory.”
“Oh? What's his story?” Yennefer inquired.
“It was a dick move, what happened to him. But Isaiah would want to tell you about it, himself. He hates being talked about by anyone but himself.”
“So, what?” Geralt lifted an arm. “We just wait until he shows himself and listen to whatever he has to say?”
“Yes.” The elves harmonized.
“How do you know Isaiah won't attack on sight?” Asked Yennefer.
“Last week, he slammed me against the wall of an alley I was taking to get home. I tried to fight him, but he told me to calm down because he needed me to hold a message for him. So I relaxed, and he said that if he could tell someone of his own kind the truth of his exile from Kaer Marter, he'd only bring ten Breosuld to Fete's party.”
“Wait, what?” Geralt and Yen stammered.
“There's more than one?” Said Yennefer.
“Much less that Isaiah is bringing ten of them.” Geralt added.
“He did, yes.” Answered Yilma. “Before I could reply to him, Isaiah called out Claudia, who looked half dead, or cursed. Ghastly pale and all wet, her dark eyes had no light in them. She barely wore anything. I watched them teleport away, then I ran home and told Cheinun what happened.”
“So they did capture Claudia.” Yen said. “Fete will be devastated. Why haven't you told her this?”
Cheinun answered, “We were waiting for our enemy to make a move, or for the right time for us to make a move. And now might be a good time, considering Thunas' last letter. If we want any chance in stopping Thunas and friends, we need to put up our hands a little. If they think we're scared, even a little, and even if they think we're bluffing, Yilma and I think Isaiah will tell us what they're planning. He wants to play, otherwise he would have killed Yilma after she told me what you now know.”
“Then we'll know for sure instead of just assuming.” Yennefer said.
“All right, so what do I do?” Asked Geralt. “It's obviously me who you're hinting should go and find Isaiah.”
“That we are, Geralt.” Cheinun replied. He went to the rightmost wall and removed the portrait of a white horse that was hung in its approximate centre, setting it on the floor. There was a metal box fit into the wall, which Cheinun opened. A small knob sat the bottom left corner of a slotted lock which had five columns and rows.
Cheinun took the handle and slid all the way up, then to the second column and down two rows. The key went rightwards to the fifth column, then down to the bottom and back to the left, where a click sounded. The elf pulled on the handle, and in the safe were four thick books, money and a black bracelet. He took out the bracelet and gave it to Geralt, who examined the lightweight accessory. It had three square jewels on it: an emerald, a sapphire and a garnet.
Geralt said, “Not a bad piece. Isaiah just dropped it?”
“Yeah, threw it down not far in front of where he and Claudia teleported.” Yilma said. “I don't know if you'll have to wear it, but it's likely that you will.”
“So you and Cheinun already have a plan.”
“Mhm.” Yilma nodded. “It'll be completely dark outside in half an hour. At that time, you'll go outside and look for something that has the name on the back of that bracelet. Cheinun, Yen and I will follow you, keep an eye out. I don't doubt you'll be able to fend for yourself if it's just Isaiah, but he might pull something out of his sleeve.”
“Good idea.” Geralt put the bracelet away.
“Until then, relax a little.”
“Or prepare.” Cheinun added. “It's up to you.”
“What are those books?” Asked Yennefer.
“Oh, they're Gail and Christopher's memoirs. Justice, desires, romance, old age, faith and politics... you name something about morals and life, Gail and Christopher wrote something about it. Did you want to read one?”
“Yeah, I'd like to. Don't know where to start, though, ha.”
“You have no topic in mind?”
“Pick one for me?”
“Sure.” Cheinun went to the safe, took out one of the books, and gave it to Yen. “This is their second book, Voids in Clutter. It discusses the minuscule significance of all things in the face of morality, the challenges of making the most moral decision in various life-or-death situations and day-to-day situations, and the effects of morality in love. This is Fete's and Esme's favourite volume. Please return it before the end of the night, Triss. We keep the memoirs in a safe for a reason.”
“Thanks, I'll be sure to return it. You mean that people have tried to destroy them, don't you?”
“I mean just that, yes. It's been some years since anyone has tried such things, but leading up to Gail and Christopher's deaths, burglars and skeptics tried to ruin their works almost a dozen times. After they died, this safe was built to, well, keep them safe.”
Yilma said, “Well, I'm going to join everyone in the living room until our designated time. Oh, uh, Yennefer, you're fine with sharing Geralt's room, right?”
“Of course I am.” Yen replied. “I'll come with you, I guess.”
“I shall too, after I replace the painting and step outside for a moment.” Cheinun said. “I'm feeling a little stuffed up.”
“Coming, Geralt?” Yennefer asked.
“Mhm.” The four return to the living room, where all three of the Bethune children had expressions of intrigue and confusion. “How's the explaining going?”
Esme answered, “Fairly well. As you can see, they're a bit bewildered, but they seem to understand it.”
“Can I go to bed, now? This is suddenly awkward.” Said Drew with a laugh.
“How is it awkward?”
“Well, now I know how you and Dad made the baby you're growing, and... I think I need to sleep on it, calm myself, I think.” Grey and Esme laughed.
Grey said, “Bah, go on, you rascals. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight, Mom.” Said Tusha, as the children went upstairs.
“'Night, Dad!” Called Marina.
“'Night, everyone.” Added Drew.
“Come sit,” Esme said, looking to the elves, witcher and sorceress. “I'm sure there's something we can talk about.”
They sat, then Geralt said, “Esme, I don't mean to intrude, but when Fete said that Mary Anne had changed and you said you didn't ask for her opinion, I wondered if something happened between you two.”
Esme lowered her voice, and did not raise it. “Yes, and said 'thing' was the day I got raped—Fete almost did, too. Now, we were outside this house because I had enough of her, 'Oh, woe is me. Everyone is berating and bullying me about my height, so I'll talk about hurting myself.' act, and her overall lack of gratitude or love to me or her father, and she had done this three times, so I took her to the shelter and got her a bed there.”
“That's it? You just got tired of it?” Said Yen.
“No, not just tired of it.” Esme shook her head with puckered lips. As she continued, her face reddened, and tears filled her eyes. “She said she thinks I'm stupid and gullible because I don't actually listen to others but fall for their words in the end. Which is bullshit, I have always listened to others and considered greatly what they've said before I make any sort of comment. That's what Gail and Christopher did, they listened to people! I had to leave my own house so I could cry, burn some wood and collect myself.”
“What'd Fete do, in the meantime?” Asked the witcher.
“She sat in here with me, and I listened to her tell me why she loved her mom.” Answered Grey. “I truly believed she was sorry at the end of ten minutes, so I sent her up to her room, told her to read. Esme came back maybe eight minutes later, I told her where Fete was, and then—”
“—And then we talked again.” Esme licked her lips, nodding a few times. “And I believed it, too. Told her never to do that again, or else she would have no home, and I didn't care what her dad would try to do about it, but she'd be out of this house. She picked up Gail and Christopher's books the next morning, said she wanted to understand people better. Six years later she goes to Skellige not just to practice poetry but to strengthen herself. I'm still so proud that she went and did that.”
“I believe with all of my heart that she has changed, and that she loves me and her dad, and her brother and sisters. She has finally shown us love and gratitude, so we agreed to let her marry. I'll admit that my relationship with Fete has soured and is unpleasant, at times. But she is still my daughter, and we are able to return to common grounds. Even if I was to kick her out, I would make sure she would be all right.”
“So when was the attack?” Inquired Yen.
“The night after our argument. We were going to the shelter to work there.”
“I know the men who attacked you are getting out, next year.” Said Geralt. “Are those guys of any importance? Say to Gail and Christopher's murder?”
“They claimed to be their killers, but who knows if that's true.” Grey replied. “They're in the Lagarde station, of course, and when their time has been served, they'll be drafted into the Lagarde linemen to protect the family. Commanders like Viba and Sagan are tasked with drilling into their minds that obedience is their only option. Thus far, the drilling has been effective.”
“Yes, while Viba was a terrible person, he was good at convincing people that his ideals were right and had no fault.” Said Esme. “Anything else?”
“I think that's it.” Geralt said, looking to his beloved.
“I think so, too.” Yennefer replied with a nod, then looked to Esme. “Thanks, Esme. I'm glad you and Fete are all right with each other, now.”
“Me, too.” Esme said. “Off to bed for you, now? I know I'm tired.”
“Actually, we have something planned.”
“Something that involves our fiends?” Grey guessed.
“Yes, and the bracelet Isaiah left, when he and I had that little encounter I told you about.” Yilma said.
“So you find some place with Jeanine on it, and you'll think Isaiah will find you?”
“That's our hope.” The blonde elf shrugged.
“We don't have to go quite yet, though.” Said Cheinun.
“Very well. And do come home in one piece.” Grey said.
“Of course, Grey.”
“Well, I'm off to bed. Goodnight, everyone.” Said Esme.
“Goodnight, Madame.” Replied the elves.
“Goodnight, Esme.” Added Yennefer and Geralt.
Esme asked Grey, “Coming, honey?”
“In a moment, yes.” Answered Grey. He waited until his wife was all the way upstairs and out of sight before he dug into the pocket within his vest. He produced two brass rings fit with small garnets on them. “Yen, Geralt, I'd like you to wear these. Yilma and Cheinun are already wearing rings just like them.”
“If any trouble comes to you by the church—oh, sorry—by the cult of the Eternal Fire, simply clench the fist wearing this ring. It will cast an illusion around you that will not only scare the literal shit out of your offenders but force those idiots to leave you alone, for the night. But if they send for backup in their fleeing and you don't want to fight, I suggest you insist upon being sent to the Lagarde outpost instead of being burned. Again, clench your ring and they are more likely to heed you. If you're not here for breakfast, at six o'clock, I shall send for Reagan or Alall to free you.”
“I'd come myself if such a situation arose, but tomorrow I must help my wife bring all of the pieces we've stockpiled for the last week for Fete's party. And that will take all day. Sheesh, when Tusha and Marina have their self-planned birthday parties, it'll be double the effort. And now I've got one more on the way, ha ha ha!”
“Where did these come from?” Asked Yen.
“With Yilma and I, when we came here from Skellige.” Answered Cheinun. “They require previous usage of magic to be used. Otherwise they're just a dull ring.”
Yen raised an eyebrow “Oh, you're from Skellige.”
“That we are.”
“Why would we not want to fight?” Inquired Geralt.
“I think it's best you not draw attention to yourselves.” Grey answered. “By surrendering and using the rings to amplify the effects, of, uh... one of your signs.”
“Yes, Axii. Uh, it amplifies it so that once every ten minutes, you may influence the minds of up to ten people.”
Geralt looked between Yilma and Cheinun while holding his ring with two fingers. “Did one of you make these?”
“I did, yes.” Cheinun answered. “But that ring should be all you and Yen need as extra equipment, during our mission.”
“Well, I'm off to bed, now.” Said Grey. “You take care of yourselves, and Yilma, send a bird, if you're all in trouble.” The elf gave a nod in reply, then the man said, “Goodnight.” And went upstairs.
“Goodnight, Monsieur.” Said Cheinun and Yilma.
“'Night, Grey.” Geralt added.
“Goodnight, sir.” Yennefer said, then looked to the memoir book in her lap. “I guess I'll read a little, before we have to go out.”
“And Cheinun and I will gather a few things so we'll be ready to go out with you.” Said Yilma, she and her husband standing and going upstairs to their room. Geralt heaved a sigh, leaned back on the couch, and closed his eyes to wait.
At seventeen minutes after two o'clock, Geralt returned to Yennefer, who looked over her shoulder while reading a book. “You're back. Everything go OK?”
“Kind of. I want you to come back with me. Yilma, Cheinun and I might not be enough. Thunas has allied with Isaiah, the witcher who just killed Peter and Alberto Lagarde again, as Godlings. They've also brainwashed Claudia onto the side.”
“That certainly complicates things. Seeing as we don't know what kind of a sorceress Claudia is, or was, we'll have to ask Fete about that. I think I'll come with you. Fete has a future ahead of her, not to mention that she needs help. Give me a second to gather a few things, then we'll be on our way.” She did this, though it took much more than a second, then she and the witcher rode to Oxenfurt. “So, what else is new?”
“Thunas left another letter for Fete. He's been sending her one every month. This is the first time he's told us who his allies are.” Geralt showed Yen the letter from Thunas.
“Who or what is Breosuld?”
“Dandelion said it's a recurrence in Thunas' poems. Breosuld is Thunas' anthropomorphic penis, and is made from alghouls and lamia. It also represents Thunas' sexual fantasy to have control over a girl.”
“Classic psychopath, that one. Do you know anything about Isaiah's past?”
“No, I don't know anything. Dandelion told me the rumour about a mage creating the illusion of the singing shield is true. Yilma and Cheinun created it. They're the elven servants of the Bethune family, though I assume you're aware of this.”
“I am, but I've never met them.”
“I've only met Yilma, as of yet. Also, Monsieur Grey convinced Reagan Lagarde that I'm not Isaiah. Grey almost convinced Reagan's three brothers, when I came back from one of the Lagarde outposts with Fete and Sagan. They changed their minds as soon as they saw me, but Madame Esme kicked them out before anything started.”
“Did anything happen at the outpost?”
“Yeah, Viba and the other soldiers saw me and were outraged that not only was I there, but that a...” Geralt paused for a second before repeating the word. “A 'midget' was knew how to fight. We had to kill them all to escape, and while Sagan was cut a little, Fete had the worst injuries. She was cut here, and here.” Geralt drew a line across his belly and the left side of his ribs.
“What did you go to the outpost for?”
“We went there to pick up Fete and Sagan's horses to go for a ride.”
“Oh yeah, and Fete's met Eskel. Saved her from Isaiah, three months ago one night, while she was riding by herself. He said he met Grey before Fete was born, so Fete thinks that Eskel saved her dad, too.”
“Really? What did Eskel take from them?”
“Food and alchemy supplies the first time, when Grey was saved, and Cheze's new sword while Cheze wasn't home, when Fete was saved. One more thing.” Geralt took out Isaiah's potion. “Isaiah left this behind, where Fete and I found Peter and Alberto.”
“Is that a witcher potion?”
“Yeah, it's Cat. I'm planning to destroy it, but something doesn't feel right.”
“Getting a premonition about a trap?”
“Yeah. Destroying it might be just what Isaiah wants me to do. That's everything, besides the two poems of Fete's that Priscilla gave me. The first is about a dream Fete had about Breosuld. I doubt the second poem related to the first.”
“Do you want me to read them to you, tonight?”
“It might be a good idea, yeah.” That night, Geralt gave Yennefer Thieving Behemoth, and the sorceress read it aloud.
“Horrors were forced down my throat, and I fainted.”
“His right hand was clenched tight like a talon, one claw rose and trembled.
His hand cut to make a cross, the limbs grasped for prey.
The paw crushed bones and the bird killed a hare.
The rocky cave floor became red and grotesque.”
“Deceit was forced into my ears, and I cried.”
“My left hand was promised but not given, one paw fell and shattered.
My hand reached to make amends, the limbs grasped for me.
That paw ruined peace and the beast killed men.
The jagged, high cave roof collapsed and murdered.”
“I awoke in warmth, and I was relieved.
My tears had been cleared, and I was saved.”
“The thieving behemoth and its master were slain!
Though the plot I dreaded had failed, it caused much pain.
Though it hurt to hear and speak as I left that place,
I was no longer weak, and my heart did not race.
When I have left the behemoth and its master,
I might emerge from that night almost in laughter.” Yennefer lowered the poem to her lap. “So Breosuld killed people who tried to slay it, in Fete's dream. Fete was held captive in an icy cave, which might be on a Skellige island or a mountain, then was saved, though perhaps a little hysterical. Do you think it's Thunas who controls Breosuld, or Isaiah?”
Geralt said, “Thinking about the first line and the potion I found, I think it's Isaiah. He might be planning to kill Fete after Thunas is done with her.”
Yen lifted the poem and reread it. “The second and seventh line depict how Breosuld's movements are controlled by the literal hands of Isaiah.”
“That makes sense.”
“I can't guess what the bird killing the hare symbolizes.”
“Nope. Neither can I.”
“The line after it is just bloodshed, but the sixth line, 'Deceit was forced into my ears, and I cried.', suggests that Fete will be lied to or has been lied to.”
“Maybe by Thunas or Claudia. Or someone else.”
“Let's see... oh, the seventh line is about Fete's engagement. She has a premonition that it won't come to fruition.”
“Or it's Isaiah, trying to scare her. Still, it's a daunting thought.”
“Yeah... Fete must be so scared.”
“She did admit to be afraid, when we were climbing down the cliff.”
“What else?” The woman lifted the paper and read from it. “Oh, here: 'My hand reached to make amends, the limbs grasped for me'. Sounds like she tried to correct a mistake, but was taken away before it could be corrected.”
“That might be something Isaiah planted, too.” Said Geralt. “We'll have to ask Fete about that. Sheesh, hope we remember everything, when we get there.”
Yen looked back to the poem. “Mm, more murder, murder... 'The thieving behemoth and its master were slain!'. But how is Breosuld a thief?”
“Maybe Fete meant that Breosuld is a thief of life?”
The sorceress nodded a little. “Maybe, that's a sensible simile.” She returned her eyes to the paper. “'Though the plot I dreaded had failed, it caused much pain.' So again, people are going to die. Isaiah's vision has led Fete to believe so.”
“Hm... and then, 'Though it hurt to hear and speak as I left that place, I was no longer weak, and my heart did not race.'. Have to wonder what she meant by that. It sounds like she comes out near deaf and very tired. What do you think?”
“It might be that our enemies' hope that Fete becomes a sorceress, maybe a weapon. They might hope to brainwash her, like Claudia.”
“And that would be a total loss for us.”
“Do you think something might be in the other poem? Priscilla said it's about someone drowning themselves with their troubled heart because either they were cheated. Dandelion thought the narrator did wrong themselves. Maybe there's more to it.”
“You might be onto something. Here, pass it over.” Geralt took out the other poem gave it to Yennefer, who read it to him.
“The fault is not mine, yet I take it down with me.
He who reads into secrets and steals them is no man.
The treasure is mine, and I will not set it free.
She who fills that chest with poor judgment is no woman.
Into the bluest of blues I go, whoa oh.”
“This is the chorus: Who cares for those who die? Oh oh and woe!
Who laughs now at someone's sorrow?
Not me, not me, I cry, I cry until tomorrow.
Mouth was shut with water and cloth, eyes covered with ice and his wrath.
That is me, that is I, the captured shall now cry.”
“The choice is not mine, yet I take its fruit for granted.
He who stirs potions and steals freedom is wicked.
The ruin is mine, on it my eyes are planted.
She who drinks that glass with no resentment is sickened.
Into the bluest of blues I go, whoa oh.”
“Who cares for those who sigh? Oh oh and woe!
Who laughs at my pain and sorrow?
Not me, not me, I cry, I cry until tomorrow.
Arms bound tight with leather and wood, my cold bare body is no-good.
That is me, that is I, the captured shall now cry. Then the chorus, again. That's it.”
Geralt scratched his head. “Dandelion is going to recite this at Fete's birthday party?”
“Not the cheeriest choice. It feels like this poem is deeper in meaning than the other. The first line is definitely Fete saying that Isaiah isn't a man through his actions, and the second about what Thunas wants to do to her. 'Mouth was shut with water and cloth, eyes shut with ice and his wrath'.”
“So he blindfolds her and pours water over the cloth to make ice so she wouldn't be able to see anything.” Commented Geralt.
“Right. 'The fault is not mine, yet I take it down with me'. He might try to drown her, at some point?” Triss shook her head. “Can't wait to stop these guys.”
“I'm feeling a bit impatient, too. But we have to keep our heads, Triss.”
The woman sighed. “You're right. But if the treasure she can't set free is poor judgment, who or what did she judge wrongly?”
“Good question. Another thing we'll have to find out, somehow.”
“So, the first line of the chorus is perhaps about Peter and Alberto, but whose sorrow is being laughed at in the following line? Pretty sure Fete is the captured, in this verse.”
“Definitely. It could be Claudia, or someone whose story we don't know yet.”
“Right. Then, 'The choice is not mine, yet I take its fruit for granted.'. Again, thinking this is an unavoidable fate, taking it personally. 'He who stirs potions and steals freedom is wicked.' is Isaiah, again.”
“'The ruin is mine, on it my eyes are planted.' is more fate talk. 'She who drinks that glass with no resentment is sickened.'. So she'll accept it, because—”
“—Fate.” The lovers harmonized, then chuckled for a second.
“Damn, poor Fete. She's going to be counting on us.” Said Geralt.
“I think we'll turn out to do a good job.” Said Yennefer. “Have a little faith.”
This content is intended for mature audiences.
or, enter your birth date.*
“Yeah, everything went fine. Is Dad home yet?” Fete asked.
“Yes, he is.”
“Nice, thanks. Take care, guys.”
“You too, Mademoiselle.” When the witcher and Fete entered the house, a handsome black haired and brown eyed man dressed in dark green and white looked to them from his seat on the cushioned rocking chair.
“There she is. How are you, Fete?”
“Good, yourself?” Fete replied with a smile.
“Just fine. Who's this with you? Come in, please.”
“Dad, this is Geralt of Rivia, the witcher I've employed. Geralt, this is Grey, my dad.” Fete said, as she and Geralt approached her father.
“You are really Geralt of Rivia?” Grey chuckled.
“I am, sir.” Replied the hunter.
“You don't look as intimidating as the stories say you are, but stories are stories. You are a man, not a monster.” Grey smiled. “Welcome to our home. Please, call me Grey.”
“Come and sit on the couch so I can see you without hurting my neck, ha ha.” The two moved into in the living room and sat on the couch as asked. “So, what's the story?”
“I took Geralt to see Peter and Alberto.” Said Fete.
“Oh, how are they?”
“Well, they told Geralt how they died and about the witcher who killed them. We started to play hide and seek with them in thanks,” Fete lowered her shoulders and frowned. “But then we heard them scream.”
Grey clicked his tongue “Oh dear.”
“Yeah, they were killed at the foot of a ravine. Probably by the same witcher.”
Grey sat up, and his expression became grim. “You're sure?”
Fete looked to the witcher. “Show him the letter, please.” Geralt nodded, took out the item and gave it to the father. “Recognize the phrase on the envelope, Dad?”
“Yeah, I recognize it, all right. Thunas is really roaming free in our city. Were you told the story of how he and Fete mete, Geralt?”
“Yes, and that Thunas has been sending one letter a month. I was also told his backstory.”
“Good. I'll read this, then.” Grey opened the envelope and cleared his throat.
“My beautiful Fete,
It has been six months since I last touched you. Though you cast my love aside, I refuse to let you go. I have set in motion an impenetrable mission to return you to me, your destined lover. I will draw redness from innocence to achieve this. I am writing this to capture your attention and urge you to come running for my love.”
Fete began to sway, so Geralt steadied her with a hand on her shoulder. Grey noticed this and paused, then continued after a small nod from Geralt. “There is Isaiah, a witcher who helps people sleep. Dreams are a sign of an uneasy sleep, but they convey to us what must be changed in our lives, or to warn us of things to come. When you come to me, do not let yourself be followed. Do not give Isaiah the pleasure of murdering more innocents like the boys who have now died two fold!”
“Do you remember Claudia, the witcher friend you made? She is so intelligent that she has brought my Breosuld to life! She sang to alghoul and siren corpses under black candlelight, and the beast became! And Breosuld is such a magnificent, loyal beast. He is the strong, benevolent guard of our frigid castle.”
“I know you have dreamt of Breosuld through Isaiah's touch. You have seen what he will do to those who try to flee with you when our bodies unite and you transform. Come to us after your birthday, Fete, and stay.
Love, Thunas.” Grey scoffed. “Disgusting.” He reached over the coffee table and touched the vacant shoulder of his daughter. “Fete, are you feeling all right?”
The girl nodded and said, “I'm OK, just a little light-headed.”
Grey sighed and rubbed his jaw. “Never has Thunas hinted towards having allies, but it certainly explains how he escaped.”
“So this has been going on for six
Fete placed a hand on her temple with a sigh. “Claudia rescued me from Thunas, she left Skellige with me and made sure I got home safe.” She dropped her hand and looked down to her lap. “How did this happen? I'm so sad to hear that she was snared.”
“Isaiah might have more power than Thunas mentioned.” Said Geralt. “That might explain how Claudia was turned to their side.”
“I was aware that Fete was saved from Isaiah by a female witcher named Ciri, and about Breosuld. Now I know that it was Isaiah who killed Peter and Alberto.” Grey said.
“The 'frigid castle' must be—” Geralt looked to Fete, who was pale. “—The cave you dreamt about. Fete, can you hear me?”
The brunette's voice was a whisper. “Yeah, I can hear you.” She bent over and put her head between her knees and held those joints. “All I did was go to Skellige to share my poems, and I ended up attracting a psychopath. And he's got a friend from low places who probably brainwashed the very woman who saved me!”
“I'm not saying I should have stayed home, but I wish I knew how to defend myself, when I met Thunas. Could have beat him up a little myself, but then he might be more vicious in his current pursuit. So you know what, self? I'm fine with this, this could be a lot worse. Those boys are dead, but there's a pretty good chance that I'll be fine.”
“I now know four people who are willing to help me, and I am not going to Thunas. I am going to be the impenetrable one. I have to be as moral as I can, if they come for me. I am panicking, yes, but I am going to be all right. I just need to put one foot in front of the other and let myself be helped. That's all I can do, and that's all I should do.”
Fete sighed and sat up, shook out her hands. Her eyes were red because she had begun to cry. Her father asked, “Feeling better?”
Fete wiped her eyes. “Yeah. Now I need to lay down, relax a little.”
“OK, sweetie.” The man made eye contact with the witcher. “Thank you for bringing her home, Geralt. Here, you may keep the letter.” Grey gave the item to Geralt. “Would you please take Fete to her bedroom? The spare bedroom at the right end of the hall is yours, if you want it.”
Geralt nodded to agree to this notion. “You're welcome, Grey, and thank you.” The hunter rose from the couch and helped Fete to her feet, then escorted her upstairs and into her bedroom. Fete began to absentmindedly remove her belt pouch as Geralt closed the door. “Hold on, I'll help you.”
The man took her bag, dagger and sword, then walked Fete over to her bed. The girl sunk onto her stomach atop her covers and hid most of her head in the pillow with her arms tucked under it. Geralt opened the closet and put Fete's things away, and when he sat beside her she began to cry. She sobbed for a while, then sat up slowly and rolled her shoulders back. “I'm sorry you had to listen to that, much less see it, but I guess you've seen weirder. Maybe worse, if you wanna call it bad.”
“Yeah, I've seen weirder and worse, but you got to a place in your thoughts where you were able to accept your situation. That's something a lot of people can't do.”
“That's true.” Fete nodded twice.
“Do you do that often? Not to be rude, I'm just—” Geralt glimpsed at the ceiling to find the right word. “—Concerned. Pretty evident you're their target now, and your dad seems worried, too.”
“No, I don't think you're being rude.” The girl smiled a little and shook her head. “It's good if a person can show concern for the well being of another. I think it means they're not shallow, that they've lived a good life, or that they're at least humble. Something Sagan and my dad both have, and now you, I see.”
“But to answer your question, yeah,” Fete nodded, then laid on her back. “I talk to myself when I'm having a hard time. When people used to pick on me for looking like a dwarf, I used to run home in tears and talk like I just did, except my final thoughts were pretty dark. Used to scream and say that I should kill them, then kill myself. Had to go see someone, as you can imagine.”
“Cheze or my mom started to come to town with me so someone could glare at those idiots and shut them up. Cheze was always effective, and he's even beaten up a few people for me. But Mom...” Fete licked her lips. “Mom got hurt, once. I did too, but she had it worse than me.”
'I can guess what they did to her.' Geralt asked, “Did you make it home OK?”
“Yeah, after they... tore her up like that, she was in so much pain that she could hardly walk. She bled a lot more than I did, of course. They only gave a nice, big cut on my back and across my legs. Tried to cut my nerves I guess, paralyze me for life.” The girl made eye contact with the hunter. “At least I have some cool scars, now.”
Geralt huffed, shook his head and almost laughed. 'There's the punchline.'
Fete continued her story. “My little sisters, Tusha and Marina, noticed we were home too late for us to just be shopping. So, Dad and Cheze went out with some guards and found us. Since then, my mom's walked with a limp in her left leg. They hurt her there, too. Hiked it up so much while they...” She cleared her throat. “Uh, while they defiled her, that a nerve in her back was damaged. Her left leg is now shorter than her right leg.”
“I'm sorry to hear about that.”
“Yeah, and Mom is the kind of woman who loves to work on the house. Not just make it look nice, but to improve it. Now she's sore all the time.”
“Ah, so she is where your tomboy attitude comes from.”
“Yep!” Fete smiled for a second, then licked her teeth. “That was the worst of it. The bastards who hurt Mom and me are serving a bit of time, right now.”
“When do they get out, if ever?”
“Next year. This was six years ago, so I was fourteen. And when they do get out, my dad's putting them in the army so they have work to do. Dad's cool like that, not just throwing people in prison forever or executing them, even if they hurt someone he knows. Takes some moral strength, too.”
“So your fraternal side is where you get all your philosophy lessons.”
“A bit of my maternal side, but mostly my fraternal side, yes. It took me a little more than half a year to change my perceptive, after the attack. I know talking to oneself is a sign of insanity or a mental illness, but at least my thoughts end in a good place, and I debate about morals instead of having a crisis. That whole experience shaped the way I write. Whenever I think about how much it hurt, and how much it hurt to see my mom in pain, I remember that I matured from it.”
“Good for you, really.” Geralt gave a small smile. The door swung open, and a young man with a pretty face, tidy black hair and umber eyes stood in the doorway. He wore black trousers and shoes, and a simple metallic blue shirt that bore in armour in the same places as Cheze, though the stranger's forearms were also protected. When he met the eyes of the witcher, his jaw fell open.
He looked to Fete and growled, “You whore.”
Fete raised a hand and stood. “Sagan, wait. It's not what it—”
“Then what does it look like? 'Cause I see my fiancee with a monster. Are you fucking him?”
“No, I'm not.” Fete kept her voice calm. “Sagan, this is Geralt of Rivia. He's helping me track down the witcher who killed Peter and Alberto.”
“He helping you track down the 'real monster'?” Sagan quoted the air with his fingers.
“Yes, he is.” Fete was still composed, and nodded her head.
“Great.” The young man threw his hands in the air.
“Sagan, this guy is under orders from Thunas, and my sorceress friend from Skellige, Claudia, got brainwashed somehow by them and created the monster for them.”
Sagan's voice was full of sarcasm. “Oh, now I get it. You're fucking this witcher—” He gestured to Geralt. “—And sucking the dick of your poet pimp.”
Fete shook her head, still passive. “He is not my pimp, he's a psychopath. Sagan, both of our families may be in danger. Geralt has a letter from Thunas about all of this.”
Sagan softened his voice, but it was still venomous. “I don't believe your soft tone, Fete. Oh, sorry, whore. But sure, sure, I'll look at this letter, j-just to entertain you.” As Geralt went to give Sagan the letter, the boy added, “Nothing like how you entertain—”
The witcher decided to interrupt. Geralt used Aard, then said, “That's enough, Sagan. Just read the letter.” Geralt then handed over the envelope, and the pacified Sagan read it quietly. Fete came beside the witcher and mouthed 'thank you' to him. Geralt shook one hand a little, saying 'it was nothing'.
The young man lowered the letter, but his eyes didn't move from where the page was. Geralt took it from him and said, “What do you think now, Sagan? Who's the real monster?”
“I... I thought we caught Thunas, locked him up.” Sagan said. “He's really doing all of this just to have you?”
“We did, but Isaiah or Claudia, maybe both, must have helped him escape.” Fete replied. “And yeah, he's doing all of this just to 'make me love him'.” She quoted with her fingers. “Dad didn't say anything when he read this to Geralt and me, but I think he might be talking to your dad about this, right now.”
Sagan shook his head and narrowed his eyes. “How did our guards not notice Thunas was missing?”
“Beats me.” Geralt said with a shrug. “Unless Isaiah is able to influence the minds of others to the point of brainwashing, like he might have done with Claudia.”
Sagan looked into the eyes of the hunter. “Then you have done nothing wrong. I apologize, Geralt.”
“It's fine.” Geralt shook his hand in dismissal.
“What did you come up here for, Sagan?” Fete asked with a light laugh.
“Oh, I just came up here to see how you were. Grey said you just had a slight meltdown. You feeling OK?”
“I'm OK, it's just that Geralt and I went to see Peter and Alberto. They told Geralt their story, but when we went to play hide and seek, they were murdered, likely by Isaiah.”
Sagan raised an eyebrow. “Godlings can die?”
The witcher nodded. “It's wrong though, and brings bad fortune. Isaiah needs to be stopped. Then again, he's given himself bad luck twofold.”
“Sheesh.” Sagan shook his head, then held his temple in one hand. “Now I'm feeling out of sorts. I remember that witcher's face. Did they tell you what he looked like?”
“Yep. Pretty distinct character. If I spot him, I won't be mistaken.”
Sagan nodded and rolled back his shoulders. “Fete, I'm sorry for calling you a whore. I was ignorant, and a prick.”
“I forgive you. I'm glad you've met the fourth of our allies.”
“Fourth of our allies?”
“Yeah, there's also Yilma and Cheinun, and Ciri, who saved me from that witcher, who I told you looked a lot like Isaiah—”
“—Who killed Peter and Alberto, right. I'm glad you came home safe.” Sagan rubbed a finger on Fete's left cheek, and she gave a gummy smile. “Come here, darling.” Fete came close to him, and they embraced for a moment, shared a small kiss, then released each other. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.” Fete echoed.
“Sorry to kill the mood, but do you still need to lie down, Fete?” Geralt asked.
“No, I think I'll be all right. I might have just need to spill my wine, a little.” She glanced to one side, then back to the witcher. “Or, a lot, I guess. Like I said, you must hear a lot of shit, Geralt.” The man shrugged, knowing it was true but not really caring.
“Shall we go downstairs, darling?” Asked Sagan.
“Yes, let's.” Fete answered. “Coming with us, Geralt?”
“I suppose. Got nowhere else to be.”
They went downstairs and saw Grey look up from his conversation with a black haired and light brown eyed man. The stranger saw the witcher, and his concerned expression became hostile. He stood and began to draw his steel sword. “Whoa, there.” Said Geralt, raising a hand a little. Sagan and Fete halted on the stairs.
“Reagan, stay your sword.” Grey added, raising his own hand.
“Who is this monster, Grey?” Reagan asked. “And why is he in your house? Had we not agreed to forbid these monsters from our homes?”
“We had, but I didn't mean what I said.” When Grey said this, Reagan snapped his head to the younger father. “I said this so you would consent for your son to marry my daughter. Did you not hear about, or did you forget, that I was saved by a witcher? It was because of him that I came home to see Cheze be born.”
Reagan said, “I know that story, yes. But what is your point?”
“While, yes, there is a murderous witcher in our midst who may be after both our families, not just after my daughter, I want you to acknowledge that not all witchers are evil. I want you to meet Geralt of Rivia, who is helping us find Thunas, Isaiah and Claudia.”
“I know Geralt from the stories.” Reagan rested his hand from his sword. “He is a warrior, a legend who stands before me. What my family has worked so hard for is in jeopardy, and the witcher who killed Peter and Alberto has killed them again. I've been told that you have a letter written by Fete's stalker about their plots, Geralt?”
“I do.” Answered Geralt.
“May I read it?” The hunter nodded, then produced the envelope and gave it to Reagan, who sat down on the couch to read it. Reagan's face soon became grim and a bit pale. When he finished reading, the man's arm that held the letter drooped onto one leg, and he stared at the grandfather clock behind Grey. “My nephews were truly killed by a madman, not this man who stands beside me.”
Reagan's eyes drifted over to Grey. “My father told me that witchers were all evil because of their powers, that they all enjoyed putting the innocent through suffering. This was because he had seen a witcher like Isaiah murder his mother and youngest sister. Now I think that is not true. I think that there is a difference between witchers, just like there is between people. This is what Gail and Christopher believed.”
“I apologize, Geralt.” Reagan met the witcher's eyes. “You remind me of the things my family values: unrelenting strength in mind and body, and chivalry.”
“I accept your apology, Mr. Lagarde.” Said Geralt.
“No, call me Reagan. It is the least I can do. I think if you prove to my family, as I have been proven, that you are not like Isaiah, perhaps you will become a welcome guest in our household, as well.” Reagan looked again to Grey. “I'm sorry you had to hide this from me, Grey. We've shared all of our secrets and dreams since we were Sagan and Fete's age. Our views should not come between their love, so I apologize for this, too.”
“You are forgiven, Reagan.” Grey's cheeks lifted in a smile. Then he looked to his daughter. “Decided a rest wasn't necessary, sweetie?”
“Yeah, I just needed to vent some thoughts. Geralt's pretty patient for listening to my crap, like that. But yes, Reagan, I think you're right. Geralt is more than what the stories say he is.” The Lagarde man nodded in response.
“Are you going somewhere, you two?” Asked Grey.
Sagan looked to his fiancee. “We could visit the outpost, go for a trail ride.”
“That sounds like a good idea.” Fete said.
“You'll need a chaperone, then.” Said Reagan. “You up for that, Geralt? We'll pay you 100 Gilt by the hour. No kiss or hug longer than three seconds, and hands stay above the waist and do not caress the chest area. Those are their only rules.”
Geralt replied, “Sure, I can handle that.”
“Told you you'd be paid extra.” Said Fete with a smirk.
Grey chuckled and said, “Get out of here, you're wasting daylight.” The couple nodded, then they and Geralt left and went east across the city.
The three came to a military camp, and when the guard at the door saw them approaching, he lifted a hand in greeting, which Sagan returned. “Morning, Sagan.” Said the soldier, making eye contact with him.
“You're off work today, what are you here for?” Odis glanced to Geralt, and the soldier rubbed the fingers of one hand on his trousers. “You bring a witcher with you.”
Geralt took note of this. 'Guy's nervous that a witcher's here. I'm guessing that those who work for the Lagarde aren't big fans of witchers, either.'
“Thought I'd bring my lady here to visit the stables.” Sagan replied. “And this is our chaperone. Permitted by both our fathers.”
“I see. An interesting choice for a chaperone.” Odis laughed nervously and licked his lips, then looked to Fete. “How are you, Mademoiselle Fete?”
“I'm well, thanks.” The girl answered.
“Well, I suppose I should let you in.” The guard smiled. “Take care, now.”
“You too, Odis.” Replied Sagan, then the three were let in. Geralt noticed that Odis gave the hunter a sharp look of distrust. The trio were greeted by some of the soldiers, but others said nothing and looked to the witcher with disdain.
“Come to further our jealousy, Sagan?” Said one soldier with blond curls and matte brown eyes.
“No way, Viba,” Sagan said, trading a pat on the shoulder with his cousin. “I came to further my own perplexity on how such a small lady can wield a sword so well within the span of half a year.”
Fete raised a finger. “Fast learning capabilities, that's how.”
“Looking to finally try yourself out on a human target?” Asked Viba.
The brunette hesitated and looked aside. “I'm still unsure about it.”
“Well, you've got a monster for a teacher.” Viba said, arms crossed as he took a few steps to Fete, who didn't move and kept eye contact with him.
'Good, don't look intimidated, no matter how you feel.' Thought Geralt.
Viba snapped his eyes to Sagan. “Are you letting him fuck her?”
Sagan shook his head. “What? No, he just told me they're—”
“—Just teacher and pupil? I won't believe it.”
“My fencing teacher is my father, not this witcher.” Fete said, her voice rough. “Geralt is our chaperone, today. My dad and Reagan are paying him.”
Viba growled, “I don't care what the monster is doing here. I want to know who's been teaching a midget how to defend herself.” One of the soldiers gave a 'yeah' in agreement, and a few others made noises of accord. Sagan's face reddened, and his hand rested above the hilt of his sword.
“Easy, Sagan.” Geralt muttered, shifting his posture. He glanced to Fete, noticing movement. 'Her heels are touching the ground, knees bent. Grey taught her to prepare, good.'
“Calm down, Viba.” Geralt said. “Fete hired me to help her track down the witcher who killed Peter and Alberto, Isaiah, and her stalker, who escaped imprisonment. She's trying to protect her family and yours.”
“We only see her fight monsters, not men.” Said Viba. “Makes a man wonder if she's hiding something. Makes him wonder if she's a sorceress, like a bunch of people think those elf servants of the Bethune are.” Several 'yeah's are given by the soldiers, who began to gather around the lovers and Geralt, Odis among them.
“You're teaching a midget? You're tracking down the witcher who killed Peter and Alberto, but how do we know it wasn't you, White One?”
Geralt said, “Those two boys told me what our guy looks like. I'm not him.”
Viba tilted his head sideways and looked at Fete. “Well, I'll be damned! So this is suspicious. You're wanting to become a monster, yourself, you fucking midget.”
Fete's answer was peaceful. “I am not.”
A soldier called, “Bullshit. Let's just get rid of 'em, Viba.”
Viba added, “Have some fun with the lady.” Some of the soldiers laughed.
“You guys are sick.” Sagan snarled.
“Yeah, so let's sick 'em, boys.” Viba drew his sword and attacked Geralt, who was ready for him and countered, and three other soldiers decided to circle the witcher.
“Geralt, I can't fight without killing, and I'm not sure if I want to kill men.” Fete said. The witcher saw that she was opposing two of the soldiers and was able to dodge and counter, but recognized room for improvement in her strength and reflexes.
“You have to, Fete. They're not gonna let us go free.” Geralt looked to Sagan, who was swamped with four men. “Sorry about this, Sagan.”
Sagan replied, “No apologies needed. I just hope my dad believes our story, when we get back.” Geralt downed Viba quite easily, as his throat was unprotected. He heard Fete shriek and glanced at her. She had been cut across the stomach by the soldier on her right, whose blade was now bloody. Geralt thought, 'Of course it's a bad cut, she isn't wearing any armour like me or Sagan.'
Sagan called for his lover after he cut down his first enemy. “Fete!”
“I'm OK, i-it doesn't feel deep. J-Just the skin, I think.” Fete replied.
Geralt commented, “You don't know for sure. Be more careful.”
The girl nodded. “Yeah, right.” As Geralt waited for the next move against him, he watched Fete take down the man who hurt her. She glanced behind her at the incoming replacement as she plunged her sword down the soldier's throat. Fete kicked the corpse down and intercepted the swing of the third man, then inched him backwards.
Geralt made note of this event as he made several counters of his own. 'She saw him coming and sped up her kill. Another thing Grey taught her.'
Geralt heard Sagan give a yelp as the witcher took down his second foe. His left bicep and chest had been slashed, and in return Sagan stuck his weapon through his enemy's arm, down into his organs. 'He's not bad himself.' The witcher thought.
The trio cut through the remaining soldiers, Geralt barely receiving a scratch. Fete was almost pierced through her left ribs by one opponent. The wound was evidently deep, the first handfuls of breath spewing out blood. Sagan drew close to Fete's back as she held one hand over this injury. When all of the hostiles were dead, Fete dropped her sword, clamped her hands over stomach wound and let out a long groan of pain. Sagan sheathed his sword, picked up and sheathed Fete's, then placed his hands on her other injury.
“Shit, you've lost a lot of blood.” Said Sagan. “You weren't kidding when you said 'I'm not ready for the real thing, I can't dodge that good.'.”
“You were impressive, though.” Said Geralt.
Fete gave a cheeky grin. “Look at you, Geralt—barely a scratch on you.”
The witcher chortled. “Do you know anyone who can help?”
“Yilma should be able to help. Do you know who I'm talking about?”
“Yeah, she's your maid. Sagan, help her outside. I'll meet you there.”
Sagan nodded. “I'll saddle up and come to the house.” The witcher went out and whistled for Roach, who approached as Sagan and Fete emerged. Geralt took Fete from her fiancee, keeping pressure on her injuries.
Geralt said, “Put your foot in the stirrup, reach for the handle, and I'll give you a lift.” The hunter put his hands together, and Fete used them to pull herself up. She cried in pain as she forced herself to sit up straight, and breathed through her mouth to focus. The witcher mounted his horse, wrapping an arm around the girl to keep her up and to put pressure on her wounds, then they raced to the Bethune estate. “You still with me?”
Fete answered, “Yeah, still here.”
When they arrived, the guards became alert, placing their hands on the hilts of their swords. While Geralt dismounted the front-right guard said, “Shit, what happened?”
As Geralt helped Fete down, she said, “Viba saw Geralt, then it was twelve-on-three. We had to kill them all just to escape.” One of the other defenders let them inside the yard, and the one who was conversing with them followed.
The guard sighed. “Grisalt isn't going to be happy about that.”
“Viba was his son?” Geralt guessed.
The lineman nodded. “That he was.” He put an arm out before Geralt could grab the doorknob, taking it himself. “All four of the Lagarde brothers are in there, now. Came to discuss how many guards should be at the party, and the three who just came in have been drinking. You may have convinced one to stay his sword, but the others...”
“I understand. Thanks.” The defender nodded, then let in Geralt and Fete. Three of the five men sitting in the living room stood—Reagan and Grey were not among them, though the girl's father clasped a hand over his mouth.
Fete called, “Yilma!” The maid and girl met eyes as the worker peeked her head around a corner in the kitchen. “Get the bandages, needle and thread. Geralt, if you'd help me into the kitchen, please.”
“Right away, Mademoiselle.” Said Yilma, going to a cupboard as Geralt walked Fete into the room and onto a chair.
“Fete, what happened?” Grey asked with a soft tone. Yilma scurried over to Fete and lifted her shirt. Fete hissed as the maid parted the rib wound to examine it.
Yilma said, “Nothing severely wrong here, Mademoiselle.”
“Oh, thank God. That one was the gusher.” Fete chuckled, gritting her teeth and holding onto the edge of her seat as the maid began to operate.
“You monster.” Scowled the blond and green eyed brother. He strode over to the kitchen, Geralt stepping in front of Yilma and Fete as the man drew his sword and posed it.
Fete held out a hand. “Jeremiah, stop! This isn't Isaiah, and he didn't hurt me.”
“Then who did?” Said the light brown haired and eyed brother, who came to stand with the dark blond and charred brown eyed brother behind Jeremiah.
“It was your own son, Grisalt. Geralt had to kill Viba because he and the others wouldn't let us go free. We had to kill all twelve of them, I'm sorry.”
“And where is your betrothed?” Asked the third brother.
“Sagan isn't with us because he had to saddle up by himself. He'll be here any moment, Alall. Any more questions or concerns about why or how I'm trying to save our families?” Fete gave a tense laugh.
'She's about to have another rambling fit.' Geralt accounted. “Relax, Fete.” The brunette sighed and nodded, then Sagan entered the house. The young man's eyes swept across the the living room to the kitchen.
Sagan said, “All right, out with it. What do you want to know?”
“No no, we've already told your idiot uncles the entire story.” Said Reagan. “They just told me that you have their trust.” The father shook his head. “What, you see this guy for yourself and change your mind just like that?”
“Yeah, just like that.” Said Jeremiah.
“Oh for the love of God!” A thick brown haired and dark spruce green eyed woman wearing a dark red top and black trousers came from downstairs. She had a slight limp—this was Madame Bethune, Geralt presumed. All eyes were directed to her, though Yilma only glanced at her because of her work. “Leave my daughter alone and go home. If you come to the party like this, I'll have you kicked out. You hear me?”
“Yes, Esme.” Grisalt said. Yilma now began to sew up Fete's second wound.
“Yeah, we hear you.” Said Alall.
Jeremiah looked to Geralt. “But we'd better not see that monster.”
“Nah, Jeremiah.” Said Esme. “You'll see that man there. A guest of honour, along with whomever he wants to bring. Oh yes, yes, I've heard your entire conversation and am now banishing you from my home, oh jolly day!”
Alall began, “There's a—”
But Esme barked, “They are all welcome. If they can help protect our families, I'd be grateful. Now, get out of my house, and tell your boys to stop ruining my pansies!”
Grisalt sneered, “Nah, I think I'll tell them—”
And again Esme shouted, “TELL THEM TO STAY HOME OR THEY'LL GET THE SPANKING OF THEIR LIVES! OUT!” The three brothers left without another word, Jeremiah slamming the door behind them. Esme met eyes with the fourth brother. “I'm sorry about that, Reagan.”
“No, don't apologize. If they want to be so ignorant, let them be.” Said Reagan.
“Perhaps you should stay the night.” Grey said. “If you head home, you might be murdered by your own family.”
“I can't leave my wife and children there. I'll tell my men to keep an eye out, tonight, and hope that none of them betray me. And in that case,” Reagan stood from the couch. “I must take my leave.” He faced Sagan. “I expect to see you at home, son.”
“I'll be there after dinner, father.” The young man replied, and Reagan nodded to say this was all right. Yilma rolled up Sagan's sleeve so she could fix his gash.
Grey stood and shook Reagan's hand. “Thank you, Reagan. See you tomorrow evening.”
“Don't mention it. I'll see you then.” Reagan tipped his head to Geralt as he went to the door. Geralt returned the gesture, then Reagan left the house.
Esme came into the kitchen and gently touched the area around Fete's now sealed wounds. The girl hissed. “Yeah, that's sensitive.”
The mother said to Geralt, “I'd like to also welcome you to our home, Geralt. I'm Esme, pleased to meet you. Don't call me 'madame', Esme is fine.”
“Pleased to meet you, Esme.” Geralt replied.
As Grey walked into the kitchen, Esme crossed her arms. “So what happened?”
“Viba didn't like that we brought Geralt over to the outpost. Had to kill all twelve of the soldiers there.” Said Fete.
“Oh yeah, Viba was a terrible devil.” The mother looked to Sagan, then to her daughter. “Can't believe he hasn't hurt both of you before.”
“Yeah, he always gave me the kind of look Thunas does.”
“Well, he's alive, and he's probably lurking somewhere in the city with Isaiah and Claudia, so that's why I said 'does'.” Said Fete. Yilma was now finished working on Sagan, and began to put the supplies away.
“If either of you experience any odd pain, let me know. I'll give you something to force your body to heal itself.” Said Yilma.
“Thanks.” Sagan said.
“Yes, thank you.” Added Fete.
Esme said to Geralt, “Might you give me the letter? I'd like to read it.”
“Be my guest.” Geralt gave Esme the letter. The woman sat on a second stool and read it. Her face quickly became red, and she covered her mouth with her free hand. After reading it, she raised it for Geralt to take, which he did.
“We need to call off the birthday party, get you far away from here.” Esme said.
“No, Mom, if I run, they win.” Said Fete. “I just won't go and find them, after the party. They'll have to come to me. I'm obviously not completely ready for a real fight yet, but now that Geralt is here, and because he was right there when we were ganged up on at the outpost, I can refine my technique, even a little.”
“And that little just might make all the difference. What did Grandma and Grandpa do, when all of those people said it was treachery to accept elf, dwarf and halfling orphans? What did they do when they said it was unjust and stupid to accept youth and the elderly of their kind into the shelter?”
Esme nodded. “They stood up and didn't back down until someone killed them. And even when they were killed, what they'd done couldn't be undone. You're right, we can't be afraid of all this. Your family's got your back too, sweetie.”
Fete smiled a little. “Thanks, Mom.”
“Now, I need some help in the yard. Care to help me, get some fresh air?”
“I'd love to, yeah.” Fete stood and rolled back her shoulders.
“Maybe go and change your shirt, first.” Said Sagan.
“Oh yeah, good idea. I'll meet you out there.”
“Geralt, care to join us?” Asked Esme.
Geralt answered, “No thanks. I'm going to run home, grab my party guest. I should be back the day before Fete's party.”
“All right, well, we should be able to guard ourselves until then. Bye for now.”
“See you, Geralt.” Sagan added.
“Bye, Geralt!” Fete piped. Then she, Sagan and her parents crossed to the dining room and out the back door. Geralt left the house, called for Roach and rode south.