1276 - Beauclair Garden, next to the south greenhouse, at dusk
Geralt gazed at the changing evening sky, which slowly begun to take a light shade of blue colors. The fierce summits of Mont Gorgon could be seen at the back of that breathtaking scenery.
Turning the glass of wine in his hand, the witcher took a sip and gave a happy sight.
His companion seated next to him on the wooden bench examined his relaxed face and smiled.
"I can feel your smile without even looking at it," said Geralt, turning his gaze to the vampire.
"I was merely absorbing in the beauty of my surroundings." Regis softly ran his knuckles on the side of his lover's face.
"Is that so?" Geralt sent him a warm glow before looking back at the landscape in front of them. "Mhh this is really a nice spot to appreciate that bottle of Fiorano. A shame it stands just where Dettlaff killed Milton a few months ago."
Regis rested his hand upon the witcher thigh. Away from them could be heard a light and melodious music, played by a group of troubadours, and a sweet scent of roses and irises came to tease his sensitive nose.
"Indeed. However you will only find rare places nowadays that human or non-human blood haven't tainted," remarked Regis, taking a quick sip of his own glass.
Geralt gave a faint nod at this comment. Regis was right, no need to think about the past events.
“I would never have guessed some times ago that I will be standing in Beauclair garden, during their annual flowers festival, drinking wine and day dreaming next to my vampire companion. I have become quite sentimental since I met you. And you know what? There is no place I would rather be right now.”
Their eyes met again, as well as their hands.
Regis made an exception tonight, having taken off his gloves before their departure earlier from Corvo Bianco. He held the witcher in his stare and put their joined hands against his lips. Their merged scents sent a shiver down his spine. No other flagrance could challenge that one, so unique and addictive.
“You have perfectly given life to my own thoughts. For a mortal monster killer and an immortal blood drinker, we are quite an incomparable and exceptional pair.”
“Cheers to us Regis!”
Their half full glasses of wine collided against each other, in perfect timing with the sky lanterns that emerged from the shape of the palace, putting an end to the flowers festival. The full moon rose above them in the dark night sky.
There was something Geralt have wanted to ask Regis since a long time, but knowing the subject of his reflection, he was not sure how to approach it without his companion's taciturn answers.
“Despite the fact that we know each other since some time now, you have always been very evasive, discreet even, concerning your vampire matters, or culture or whatever it is. Since the end of my contract with Dettlaff, I have been wondering some things – some vampire things, that I came across around Toussaint. I know you prefer not to lose time into trying to explain something I may not fully understand, but I would like to know a bit more about the man I am spending my nights and sharing my feelings with.”
Regis looked thoughtful for a short moment but gave a reassuring smile to Geralt.
“A very fair and justified request my dear. I am not surprised at all for your inquisitiveness, but more for your incredible patience and understanding of my, as you call it, discreet nature. What is it you want to know? You have seen something unusual if I guess correctly.”
The witcher took a long comforting breath, revealed by his companion answer.
“I came across some sort of stones around Toussaint, nine stones to be exact, on which is painted some kind of affronted creatures, affronted chimeras maybe. I have seen the same symbol in that book of yours last time. And don't blame me for opening it, it stood just on our nightstand. I couldn't understand it anyway, the writing is nothing I have seen before.”
Regis looked amused by the revelation of Geralt's curiosity for his book, one that only vampires can read. A small part of their codex.
“And what conclusions have you made about them? Considering the fact that they may indeed be related to us vampires,” he asked, not even trying to hide the mirth in his voice.
Shit, thought Geralt, he is going to take me for an ignorant in a minute. Of course it was too easy to just get a straight answer from him. He just had to give it a try then.
“Well, I haven't tried so hard to think about their meaning, but I have remarked that some offerings with food are disposed in front of each, sometimes even blood, and they are always lightened with candles, like a sort of shrine for a god or a goddess. I even saw women in front of one near the Cockatrice Inn, and they seemed to pray for something,” he thought about it for a second and continued, “Could it be possible that humans in Toussaint have built those stones to pray for vampires? After all the fear and the misunderstanding for your race?”
Regis grinned, put his glass on the grass, and leaned a little more back on his hands.
“Ah my dear, your conclusion is as close to the truth as my ability to reflect my appearance in a mirror,” his smile increased and Geralt sent him a bored look.
“Does that mean that you are not going to help me with my ignorance, even a little bit? If I am so wrong you can't just let me in such a desperate situation isn't it?” He tried to put on an innocent look while leaning down to grab the vampire face in order to plant a long and sensual kiss on his thin lips.
Regis let himself savored the moment before he playfully pushed the witcher aside with a little laugh.
“If you think you can buy my knowledge with a kiss you are fully mistaken, despise your high skill on that matter. But I will give you an explanation nonetheless. After all, knowledge is the key for acceptance, and as my mate you ought to know more about us, about our history.” He put his arms on his thighs, looked at the city and began his explanation.
“As you know, the Conjunction of Spheres happened during the year 230 before your so called Resurrection. At that moment, some of us from the Gharasham tribe, decided to stay in Toussaint, while others ventured elsewhere.
Do you think that my ancestors, at that moment, decided to hide themselves into caves or necropolis, waiting only for the gate to open again? Some did of course, but not all of them. If we had visited the Unseen Elder to force Dettlaff to appear, you would have seen ruins in his cave, old buildings looking quite like your own, like your stone castles or forts. My ancestors spread around Toussaint, erecting high towers and living places in their steps. No human were present during that time. Only elves. So as you can imagine, our existence was not so much a problem like it is today, at least until the last elves were hunted down and killed by human kind in the year 781 after the Resurrection. During that period of time, those stones you mentioned were placed around Toussaint. Not for humans to pray on them, for none of them were present yet. They marked our territory, the Unseen Elder territory to be precise. You may compare them to your own geographic markers, but they are more a symbol of authority than simple boundary stones. Those chimeras represent the authority in the person of the Unseen Elder. He wears himself a necklace with that same representation. Its meaning is difficult to explain to a human but it bears a great importance for us.”
Geralt didn't let time to Regis to go on with his story.
“If it is true then why those stones can be found at places such as Tourney Ground or Coronata vineyard? I can understand why there is one at places related to vampires like Tesham Mutna, or at the back of Orianna's orphanage or even in that cave in the Blessure Forest where I found a fleder and a garkain. But near humans or elves settlements?”
“Have you remarked that Tourney Ground lies today in the center of ruins? Have you not seen the same kind of foundations during our journey?” asked Regis.
It strucked Geralt in the face.
“Are you saying that Tourney Grounds was a vampire estate like Tesham Mutna? That the Toussaintois are not only living on ancient elven ruins but also on ancient vampire ruins?”
Regis grabbed his satchel, wearing a very serious face. “Pretty much so. Appearances can be deceiving. As for the stones next to Coronata vineyard... well... I am not sure you want to hear it but I am not going to back on it now. You remember those books at Tesham Mutna about human farms? About villages built by vampires to breed humans for their blood?”
Geralt took a horrified look, “Are you serious? You just told me humans were not in Toussaint during that moment.”
“They appeared soon after, by the same sort of cataclysm that brought us here. And the stones were not all placed at the same time. Things have changed in nearly one thousand year. Moreover, you may not have remarked it, but higher vampires still live around Toussaint. Orianna and me are definitely not the only ones around.”
Geralt didn't knew how to take that news. Of course it's logical but he haven't truly given it much thought until now. Then he remembered a diary found on a speleologist body in a cave.
“Higher vampires like a certain Luq Veunèque?” said Geralt.
“Actually yes, how do you know his name?”
“I found a diary in the cave near Basane Farm. Apparently a speleologist called Votty Gerek have been lured by that vampire into the cave, to become the dinner of two lesser vampires.”
“Hum I am not so surprised. I hope you don't have any contract on that higher vampire head related to the death of that unfortunate soul.” Regis rose his eyebrows at his companion.
“Not at all. And I don't intend to fight or try to reason with any higher vampire in an extremely long period of time. Dettlaff was enough to deal with. Furthermore, one higher vampire in my life is much enough.” Geralt grinned lazily and gave a playful punch at Regis leg whom sent a pleasing smile in return.
Then the witcher added, “I got your point with the stones, but it still doesn't explain why people are praying on them and giving offerings today.”
“There is a logical explanation to that if you are thinking about other races history.
Humans have not always been our foes, and a very few privileged among them served us a long time ago. They used to show my brethren their loyalty and obedience by placing offerings on those stones on special events. This is nearly gone today, but traditions are hard to erase, and a few of those who remained faithful to us, maintained them.
At the same time, too much ignorant fools in search of something mystic to hold into, pray on those stones without knowing their true meaning. They understand it like you did, as humans shrines on which it's good to pray to soothe one or another fear of what they know nothing about.
But for us vampires, those markers still convey a distinguished significance. And from time to time, blood offering is made on them, as an allegiance to the Unseen, and also as a discreet mark of support to each other.”
Regis was gazing at the earth floor and seemed lost in his memories after that explanation that may have awakened some distant feelings related to his own race.
“Why vampires decided to leave places like Tesham Mutna or the one at Tourney Ground? Because of the troubles brought by humans?” asked Geralt.
Regis drew his attention back to him. “Exactly. Like I said, since the end of the elves governance in Toussaint, and the beginning of the human reign with the first king, Ludovic, nothing have been the same. We found out that a cohabitation with those dominating conquerors that only thought of themselves as the most powerful race, the greatest victors against the elder race, was simply not possible. We could have killed them all of course. But it would have brought nothing good to us, nothing worse fighting for. So we retreated into hidden places, and made ourselves secretive, trying to make human forget about us so we can leave in peace far from their affairs.”
By the end of his monologue, Geralt had joined him closer on the bench, circling his waist with his arm.
“I am glad you didn't hide yourself from me, and even more glad and grateful for your trust. Thank you for sharing that with me.”
“As I am my dear, and for the fact that beings like you still exist on that world, beings who look over appearances, and watch over other races with a compassionate mind.” He cupped Geralt cheek carefully with his left hand and put their forehead against each other. “Now I guess I will entrust you with other vampire tales on another day. Let's just make this night ours and forget about the past.”
“This night and many others,” Geralt promised him.