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Deithwen an Gwenbleidd

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The City of Golden Towers was a sight to end all sights, and in the 80 odd years since Geralt had last been this far South it had changed considerably. 

It was bigger for one thing, the city now built up around the great walls that encircled the largest city known to mankind on the Continent.

He saw the massive aqueducts carrying fresh water to the masses, the port where what looked like a whole fleet of ships lay waiting to dock and be unloaded. The Island town of Deinwareth the Elven settlement that still stood after all this time, a testament to the cooperation of the two races in Nilfgaard's founding. And the towers, all near a thousand of them, loomed over the city, pointed tips glinting golden in the summer sun.

But above it all perched on a hilltop that overlooked the city was the Golden Palace of the Great Sun, a massive structure that transcended everything. Even at the distance he was he could see that the eleven story structure with its towers and bells was opulence given form.

And according to Emhyr it was home.

Bloody hell he was going to be living in a fucking palace.

Gods, he thought, almost in a daze, a place where everyone knew everyone’s business and where intrigue and manipulation abounded.

He was so going to fuck this up. He wasn’t a politician, couldn’t stand court intrigues and that bloody awful Game they all liked to play.

Why the fuck was he even here, he thought grimly as Roach clipped along at a steady trot, half a length behind Emhyr on his right, ard’Enthiel in the same position to Emhyr's left.

He almost sighed and focused on Emhyr, that was why he was here he reminded himself. Emhyr was why here was here.
He took a calming breath and let it out, he was here at the culmination of a journey, he had a job to do. Protect the Emperor.

With that thought in mind he focused and tried to get his mind off what everything meant and back on to his work.
He had been warned that with Emhyr coming home after almost three years away there would be an assassination attempt. Apparently there always was.
He kept his eyes peeled as the procession moved out from the pass and towards the city, the black and gold pennants flying in the wind as almost a thousand men at arms, soldiers of the Impera Brigade marched towards the city.

In the center of it all surrounded by his personal guard, was the Emperor. He sat upon Infinite dressed in his black and gold armour, a light summer cloak on purely for decoration, it moved in the wind fanning out behind him as they rode. Emhyr was crowned and coiffed, regal in the sun warming up the summer day.

And the days were bloody hot, he wasn’t used to the climate being so warm yet here in Nilfgaard he had immediately noticed how different it was. Hot days and balmy humid nights, Loc Grim had been an eye opener on why Nilfgaardian's preferred such open architecture and water features, it kept the place cooler.

It took the meandering procession nearly half an hour to come to the edge of the city, yet people were lining up along the road under trees and awnings to cheer the Emperor through. He had gotten used to it in past few months once they had hit the Southern States. Starting with Toussaint there had been a marked difference to the Grand Procession, the crowds were actually delighted to see Emhyr.

He’d been curious about it and asked Lanfare one evening, Lanfare had smiled, “Emhyr has a formidable reputation in the North, he is a conqueror and has wrested the Nordling Kingdom's under his banner, he is seen to be cruel and unyielding like the blade he wields. However here in the South his leadership has brought prosperity and order to the regions. His reforms have seen the common folk receive state healthcare and rudimentary education as part of their taxes. They also have access to the Great Sun, the temple is not only funded by donations but by the state as well, it has given the people hope and succour when needed the most. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that he is universally loved, war and conqueror sow much pain in the populace but he is respected and admired.”

Geralt had walked away from that conversation a little bit bewildered, he had assumed what he had seen of Emhyr's governance in Novigrad had been the exception given the situation with the church. Obviously not.
And even more obvious was just how much more enlightened Nilfgaard was compared to the North.

He looked at Emhyr as they moved through the wide clean streets full of cheering people, he was as relaxed as he had seen him through a procession and waving every now and then.

He shrugged and went back to looking for problems.

As Lanfare had said, he wasn’t universally loved and he had many enemies.

As the came to the crenelated city walls he was once again impressed with their breadth and the sheer size of them, they dwarfed anything he had seen in the North.

The noise when they went through the gates was almost deafening, and Geralt couldn’t help the wince, his sensitive ears almost ringing with the volume.
Black and gold confetti flew through the air, along with streamers and banners, it was chaotic and he was thankful that the shields that surrounded Emhyr were at full power, he was finding this all very distracting.

And he was going to tell ard’Enthiel that guarding Emhyr in this sort of chaos was maddening and next to impossible. How the hell was he supposed to be able to see potential threats?

He growled under his breath as the Procession came to a crawl, this was going to take a while he realised.

It had taken more than four hours to get to the inner ring, the walls that were the beginning of the Palace complex, three hours of contracted misery really, thought Geralt with a huff.

His ears hurt, his eyes hurt and his back was actually twinging, it seemed travelling in a carriage for most of the day hadn’t done his seat on a horse any good.

He did however breath a sigh of relief as the noise was dampened now, the streets not lined with cheering crowds but soldiers at parade.

And they moved quicker too now, divesting themselves of at least half the men that had traveled through the city with them. However the Palace complex was the governing seat of the Empire, and it was incredibly large. Apparently running an Empire this large meant that the Division's needed space to work and store their important papers.

He was resolved to keep Takara as far away from any of these buildings as much as possible, she would disappear for hours if she was ever let loose.

They were coming up to the entrance of the Palace, and he was trying to focus on his duty and not gape like a country bumpkin. While he wasn’t gaping he couldn’t help but marvel at the impressive architecture as they came into the main courtyard of the Palace, and even that was massive.

The Palace proper was built from a warm granite and marble, large carved columns holding up tiled roofs, with covered walkways between the outbuildings. The Palace itself soared in majestic and elegant lines high above them, and he didn’t even bother counting the large windows that graced the building, many of which were pulled open to let the air and breeze in. The amount of light that must be in the building would put any of the Northern Castles and Palaces to shame.

They clipped at a trot towards the stone staircase that went up to a set of inlaid golden doors adorned with the Sun of Nilfgaard.

They apparently took six men to open or close, looking at the size of them Geralt believed it, but waiting at the top of the stairs with nobles surrounding her, was Ciri.

And she was as beautiful as ever he thought, pride and love in his heart.
She was dressed in a black and gold dress, her white hair adorned with the crown of her office, and the sceptre of the Emperor in her hand, obviously ready to hand that power and responsibility back to her father. Just behind her to her right stood Morvran, the wedding was going ahead so it wasn’t a surprise to see him behind her.

He watched closely as Emhyr dismounted and started up the flight of stairs, Geralt close behind, but out of the corner of his eye he saw the mage that accompanied them drop the shields around the Emperor, a bit prematurely he thought, just as his keen ears picked up the whistle of a bolt.

He didn’t look, he didn’t even think, he acted purely on instinct with his heart in his mouth as he lunged up the two stairs that separated him from Emhyr.

He caught him around the waist and pulled him sideways, reaching out to catch the bolt with his other hand, he missed and cursed up a storm as it went through his palm.

That fucking hurt he thought, as he heard ard’Enthiel yelling orders for Emhyr's personal guard to protect the Emperor.

Emhyr kept low, he knew what to do, had drilled with Geralt so they both knew how to move with each other as the guards closed ranks, their shields coming out to form a barrier, but nothing was going to get past the silver green shield that had suddenly sprung up around them.
Ciri’s strident voice echoed over the courtyard.

“Bring me that mage and find me the assassin, NOW.”

Well, Geralt thought as he all but hauled his lover up the stairs using his own body as a shield, not really caring about anything other than getting Emhyr under the cover of a building, they had been right about an assassination attempt.


Emhyr took it all in stride, it wasn’t the first attempt on his life, although it was the first in 2 years.

Ciri had rooted out the last coup that had started with an attempt in Novigrad, his spies had reported she had been most thorough and effective in her quest to find the traitors.

It almost wasn’t a homecoming without a good assassination attempt, he thought ruefully as Geralt all but carried him up the stairs and into the Palace.

He could sense the single minded purpose behind Geralt's movements and let his lover do what he needed to do.
When they were standing in the Palace, in what was known as the Grand Receiving Room, Geralt stopped.

“I’m not hurt Geralt,” he murmured, trying to let him know he was safe. He heard the slight growl of an angry wolf as said wolf let him go and came to stand behind Emhyr, his ever permanent shadow.

He could still hear Ciri barking out the same orders he would be, in the same tone of voice actually, so he let her continue, watching her in action was a revelation.

Her emerald green eyes had a faint shine to them and her shields were up and cracking with power.

And while everyone snapped to attention, including the Senate members who had come to greet him, he couldn’t help but feel proud at her. She was magnificent.

And she was ready to rule, but from their conversations he knew she didn’t think she was. It was now his job to show her she was ready.

As the palace was made secure, she dropped the shields she was holding and her eyes returned to normal, she then turned to him and held out his sceptre. “I don’t want this anymore.”

“You’re more than ready for it,” he murmured to her as he took it, but she shook her head.

“Not quite yet.”

Emhyr wanted to sigh, she was as stubborn as he was.

“Very well Princess Cirilla, I will leave this matter in your capable hands.”
As she bowed to him and left, her aids with her, she was still giving orders. He knew his safety was in the best of hands if Ciri was hunting down an assassin, besides an assassination in the Palace complex was rare, there were too many wards and shields that helped pinpoint an assassin to be able to get away cleanly.
The other nobles were jostling to try and get his attention and Emhyr thought hard, he didn’t want to play their game.

So he wasn’t going to.

He looked at Geralt who was standing behind him, arms behind his back with a paleness and a tightness to his mouth that spoke to Emhyr of pain.

“Geralt?” He asked calmly knowing something was wrong.

Geralt grimaced and brought out his hand, Emhyr felt his stomach drop, there was a bolt sticking out of Geralt hand, blood slowly dripping down the shaft.

He stared at it for all of a few seconds and then his voice clipped out, “Find me my healer and send him to my quarters, Geralt come let's have that seen to.”

With that he ignored the senate members and others gathered, taking his lover far from the circus that was the Golden Court of Nilfgaard and to the sanctuary of his wing.

———

“You can’t blame me for this one Lanfare,” Geralt teased as the healer inspected the cut off in the shaft he had just made, making sure there were no splinters.

Geralt had been escorted by Emhyr into the Imperial wing so fast that he hadn’t really taken much in. What he had taken in when he found himself sitting in a chair in the bedroom that was that Emhyr's Quarters were palatial, luxurious and lavish. And that bed held a damn lot of promise.

The thing was so big that Geralt was positive a fiend could sleep on it comfortably. No wonder Emhyr had fallen out of Geralt's bed at Corvo Bianco several times.

“Can’t I?” Replied Lanfare mildly to Geralt’s teasing.

“Nope.”

“Then you really don’t know me, you’re meant to catch an arrow not let it go through your hand.”

They both heard the slight growl come from a grumpy Emperor who was pacing near them.

“I have no idea why you even tried to catch it,” snapped Emhyr.

“Because I didn’t actually know the angle it was coming in from, I heard it not saw it. So I reached out to make sure it wasn’t going to strike anyone else.” Geralt grumbled back and then cursed in several languages as Lanfare, with no warning what so ever, pulled the bolt from his hand.

“Fuck Lanfare, a little warning next time,” he managed to say at the end of his impressive cursing streak.

“I didn’t want you to tense up, it would be more painful then.”

“It was painful then as well,” he snapped growling as Lanfare applied more pressure to the wound.

Lanfare ignored him,“I will be able to stop the bleeding but your hand will have to have several healing sessions over the next five days before it's fully healed. Or you can let your mutations heal it. Which do you prefer?”

Geralt thought about it, knowing that a wound like this would heal in about 2 weeks, “The healing sessions,” he said, and felt the warmth of magic in his hand as Lanfare started healing it.
He let the elf concentrate and turned his attention to his clearly irate lover.

“Soooo, what else is on for today?”

Emhyr just stared at him, “You were just shot in the hand and you want to know what the days plans entail? You’re no longer my bodyguard until that injury heals.”

“Yes but I’m not sitting here on my ass doing bug all, you leave, I hunt you down.”

Emhyr narrowed his eyes at Geralt, Geralt tried for a winning smile, Emhyr narrowed his eyes further and folded his arms across his chest.

“And if I chain you to the bed?” Geralt opened his mouth to answer, not quite believing he was about to be chained to the bed in less than an hour of being in Emhyr's quarters.

“No chaining, I want his hand down and nothing binding his wrist until his hands healed.”

Saved by the healer, Geralt's grin turned into a victory smirk, which was quickly wiped off his face with Lanfare's next order.

“And no sex for the next two days.”

Huh? Thought Geralt as he blinked in surprise, he did not just say that? “It's my hand that’s injured, not my cock,” he growled turning his amber eyes on Lanfare, who was wrapping a bandage around the poultice on his hand.

“I am well aware of what's injured Geralt, but you’re still not having sex, I want this to remain on, I don’t want you to undo the work that I’ve just done and if I have to act as a bloody chaperone again I will.”

“Do you take pleasure in cockblocking me,” 

“It will be as you have ordered Lanfare,” replied Emhyr, “Geralt will attend me, and we have the return Banquet to attend this evening. I’ll keep him out of mischief.”

Lanfare nodded and gathered his things, placing the bloody rags and the bolt into another bag. And then with a slight bow to Emhyr, walked out of the bedroom, leaving Emhyr and Geralt alone.

Geralt scowled, “All you’ve done for the last 2 weeks is talk about that bed, and now we can’t do anything in it?”

“Oh yes, I assure you beloved there is something we can be doing in it.”

Geralt perked up, “Oh yeah?” He tried to purr back, all for circumventing Lanfare's order.
“Sleep.”

Well if that wasn’t a let down, he thought sarcastically, Emhyr laughed, “Such a grumpy little witcher,” he teased, uncrossing his arms and moving over to the chair Geralt was still sitting in. He kissed him on the cheek and then held out a hand, “Come beloved, let me show you this wing of the palace. Then you will accompany me to a gathering that I really must attend to.”

Geralt sighed and took Emhyr's hand, standing as he did, “Alright, show me your home.”

Emhyr smiled, and then gestured to the room, “This is the bedroom.”

Geralt rolled his eyes at him and Emhyr chuckled, then started telling him the features of the room.

The marble tiled floors, the rugs from Zerrikania, the large black velvet drapes pulled back from massive windows that lead onto a balcony overlooking a lush and colourful garden. He took Geralt through to a bathing chamber that put the one in Novigrad to shame, Emhyr had three pools to choose from, but he was certain there was an order to it, gauzy curtains blew out from open windows and he was impressed at the sheer decadence in front of him. Emhyr pointed out features that he was obviously proud of then moved on back to the door, bypassing another 2 doors that Geralt assumed was a servants entry and maybe storage.

No wonder Emhyr liked to bathe so damn much.

The dressing room was massive, with so much clothing that Geralt had no idea how Emhyr could wear it all, much of it was in his customary black but some was in other colours.

He was pretty sure that he was in the heart of Mererid's domain as Emhyr pointed out where the Crown Jewels were kept, any transgression met with rigid disapproval.

Emhyr led him through a tall corridor and pointed out an opulent dining room with a table that could comfortably seat twelve, all in black wood from the Nazairi forests with gold upholstery.

Geralt was beginning to think black and gold was a theme.

He couldn’t help but marvel at the carpentry of the sandalwood screens that divided sections of the rooms and gave off a pleasant aroma. He saw the recreation room set up for card games and other types of strategy games, he could see himself in that room. Then he was lead to a huge lounge room with upholstered chairs and divans, love seats and cushions all scattered round a fireplace that he was sure he could stand in.

“And the final room,” said Emhyr as he opened another door, it was a library and study, “This is where I work when I am not in my study in the Governance wing of the Palace.”

It was beautifully appointed, the books of the very highest quality and Geralt could see that they were of varying subjects, Emhyr like Geralt was a prodigious reader. Unlike Geralt however his time was not often his own.

The desk itself was large, the carvings ornate and it was well worn, that desk held the weight of an Empire, he thought.

“Don’t let Takara in here, you may find some of your books missing.”

Emhyr chuckled, “Duly warned,” he said easily, “The rest of the wing has the Empresses quarters, which belong to Ciri and several guest rooms for important guests of state, I may just set one aside for Takara so she has one of her own when visiting.”

That touched Geralt deeply and he couldn’t help but lean in and give Emhyr a kiss, Emhyr kept it light and sweet, a gentle melding of lips.

“Not to cut it short,” Emhyr said, slightly husky, “But I have a greeting to get to.”

“I’m going to be bored out of my brain aren’t I?”

“More than likely,” chuckled Emhyr.

 —————

Geralt sat at the table just down from the head table where Emhyr and most of the more important nobles sat with him, he was relegated to a table that held the not so important people, but don’t tell them that they’re not important.

They all believed they were more important than anyone else.

It was giving him a headache to go with his aching hand. He was dressed in another of those long light surcoats that came to his knees, it was silk not arachnophore silk and it was in black and green, he wore it with leather pants and knee high boots. It was comfortable and cool as while it was long sleeved he didn’t need to wear anything under it. In a fact Mererid had sneered and said it would destroy the line of his dress.

And he was still loving that cane.

The greeting with Emhyr's personal council hadn’t been as boring as he had expected, he had become entrenched in a conversation with Field Marshal var Orden, the military man he had met back in Novigrad. The man had been singing the Witchers praises, most happy at the progress in the training the Empires soldiers were receiving in monster slaying. Geralt knew that there were 8 witchers in total who were working on training forms and drills for the military, he had thought he would be helping them but being the Emperors lover and bodyguard gave him enough problems. Which was the reason Eskel had been sent on ahead of the progress.

Var Orden has been thrilled that there were fewer casualties in the southern divisions in the last year, he had also wanted Geralt to pass on his personal thanks to, ‘that dear Lady Ayakashi’. The books she had sent had been most informative and were part of the lessons that all new officers received by Balik of the Bear school.

Geralt had resolved to track down Balik when he could, he hadn’t seen the old Witcher in several decades. The talk had been informative and interesting.

Geralt picked up the new glass of wine that had been set in front of him a little while ago, thankful that his right hand wasn’t the one injured, and went to take a sip. The scent of hemlock and wolvesbane hit his nose and he paused then placed the glass to his lips and pretended to take a sip.

Someone was trying to poison him, the idea was so completely out of touch with what a Witcher was that all he wanted to do was collapse into a ball and laugh.

Long and loudly.

He glanced at everyone else’s glasses and noticed that most were refilled or still being drunk, the amount in his glass hadn’t been small and the virility of the poison meant that vomiting, hallucinations and confusion would be showing up in about ten minutes from ingestion. Since no one was showing signs Geralt knew his glass was the only one poisoned.

First Emhyr's assassination attempt and now one for him. He had no idea who he’d pissed off but someone obviously objected to his presence. Ahhh, he thought, there might be a reason - he had just foiled an assassination attempt.

“How is the wine Master Witcher?” he looked at the Baroness that had asked him the question, she was nice he thought, had included him in the conversations and had asked him several questions about his craft.

She seemed interested. And she liked her wine.

“Its a good drop,” he rasped.

“Her Imperial Highness is partial to that particular red and it's hard to get hold of now, I was very happy to see it on the table when we arrived for dinner.” The first set of courses had come and gone with some of the most incredible foods he had ever seen.

“I know,” he replied, “I sent her Highness a crate of it when the harvest came in and the first batch of wine was produced. I own the winery.”

“Oh, well isn’t that interesting.” another of the nobles, a Lord this time gushed, “I was just saying to my wife that we would have to order a crate or two when the next harvest is released.” He leant forward trying to get a good look at Geralt, nosy bastard, he thought as the man kept looking between his hand and his eyes.

“I thank you for your patronage.” He said, trying to be polite when all he wanted to do was grab the bottle and hide behind one of the intricate tapestries lining the wall.

A gong sounded and he frowned, not knowing what it meant, but his table mates obviously did as they started whispering to each other, everyone at every table was whispering to each other.

“Yes, most suitable Baroness var Ornah.”

Well whatever agreement had been brokered had been done, he thought as he picked up his water to drink.

“Sir Geralt, it's decided, you will address the Emperor when it's our tables turn.”

Say what now? He thought with a blink just as a Lord stood up from the last table in the room and launched into a flowery speech about the Glory of the Emperor. It was an impressive ass kissing speech he’d give him that, and saluted the Emperor and the Empire at the end with his wine. And the same thing happened again and again.

Oh for fucks sake, he thought with horror as they came to his table, they were expecting him to get up and say something about the Emperor's return.

Oh he was trying to stay out of trouble, but trouble it seemed was all about finding him.

He stood up, and with his enhanced vision got to see Emhyr’s surprise before it was quickly masked, Ciri on the other hand didn’t bother to mask her amusement. That child would be the death of him one day.

He took a deep breath and thought fast, what to say? What to do?

What the hell would Takara say? he thought, thinking back to how noble she was, she was an Empress and she had taught him much. And then he knew, he wouldn’t lie, he would tell what he had seen.

“Your Imperial Majesty, Your Imperial Highness, Genteel Lords and Ladies of the Court. I have seen the devastation of war too many times to recall in the century I’ve lived,” he saw everyone’s shock at his age but continued on, “I wouldn’t rightly call war glory, however I have seen what Nilfgaard can give the people of the North and with the events in Novigrad I have seen the populace start the journey of thriving under the leadership of an Emperor who cares for the wellbeing of the people. I have seen the towns and cities that have thrived here in the South and wonder at all that Nilfgaard is willing to give. I consider that glorious, and I truly believe that in time, the North will thrive as well as the South. The Emperor has started the Northern Realm on that journey and he has done so with blood and war but he has tempered that with relief and a reason to live under a guidance that cares. That is what we witchers of the School of the Wolf strive to see in the people that we fight for, that the lives we save have a reason to live and thrive. In time a united Empire will flourish and it started here in this era. That is Glorious.”

He reached out and picked up his glass and raised it. “To the future of the Empire, both North and South”. He drank to the toast, tasting the wine and the poison. As he did he couldn’t help but close his eyes as he felt his body respond to the poisons in it, his table mates gasped as his veins darkened and he braced himself as he felt the mutations kick in.

He opened his eyes, well aware that the night-shine would make them glitter in the light, he swept his gaze over the gathered nobles, most now coming to realise something was wrong.

“And to whoever poisoned my wine with hemlock and wolvesbane, you can’t kill a Witcher with poison. Try something else next time.”

—————


“I cannot believe you willingly drank that and then challenged an assassin to try again, of all the stupid things to say Geralt, that tops it all.”

Emhyr was in a furious fine form and Geralt was coping with a lecture that put anything Vesemir had growled at him to shame.

He was thankful that Emhyr had tossed out the servants with a barked out order to ‘leave’ so this particular embarrassment was private.

“I’ll admit it probably wasn’t my best idea,” he tried, and got a scathing look in return.

Whatever gave you that impression?” Emhyr said with such sweet sarcasm that Geralt blinked, he’d never heard that tone before, he opened his mouth intending to shoot him down, but paused.

He got it.

Emhyr was scared for him and didn’t know how to respond to that fear. It was like that time in Novigrad when Emhyr reacted with polite disdain to him being allowed on light duties. Geralt admitted to himself that Emhyr's response to his lover being poisoned was to order a massive investigation, and he had never seen so many people jump to Emhyr's furious orders. He’d also said in front of everyone that he wanted an answer on his desk by morning or heads would roll. Geralt was pretty sure he meant literally too.

“You’re right, it was an idiotic move, I should have thought about it more and not challenged the assassin to get more creative.” He saw Emhyr's shoulders sag a little and Geralt suddenly saw it more clearly, Emhyr was tired. The weight of an Empire was clearly a heavy burden, and he had just added to it.

Emhyr had taken off his crown and chain of office, and removed his outer tunic. He walked the few reps to where Geralt was seated on a divan in the dressing room to reach out and touch Geralt's cheek.

“This place is filled with danger and most you will not see coming for you, it's not a front on assault Geralt, it’s a subtle danger from any angle.” And then Emhyr gave a rough chuckle, “Although I have to admit, you drinking the poison and then declaring to my entire court that it does nothing to a Witcher was certainly shocking. They didn’t quite know what to say or do.”

“So it's just the challenge to an assassin you object to?” He asked tentatively.

“Don’t be dense, I object to all of it, but the horror on everyone’s faces as you changed in front of them in hindsight is amusing. It’s not often my court shares its collective shock.”

Emhyr sighed and Geralt reached out a hand took hold of Emhyr's and then tugged him down into his lap. And then held him. Emhyr was stiff at first, Geralt had never actually pulled him into his lap just to cuddle, but then he relaxed leaning into Geralt and put a hand over Geralt's heart.

Obviously feeling the slow methodical beat.

Geralt put his hand over Emhyr's, “I’ll try better,” he swore.

Emhyr just smiled, “Don’t make promises you're going to find difficult to keep beloved. You are you, I don’t want you to play the game of courts, you are so far above its petty nasty nature. I’ll try to temper my response.”

Geralt grinned, “Don’t make promises you cannot keep my heart,” he teased back.

Emhyr snorted.

“I’ll be on my guard Emhyr, there's nothing that can creep up on me easily, and I would see an ambush before most would.”

Emhyr was silent for a minute and then made a declaration so softly that Geralt strained to hear it. One that both thrilled Geralt and alarmed him, “I would bathe these halls of marble and gold in blood and fire if you were killed.”

Geralt squeezed Emhyr's hand to let him know he had heard, and resolved himself to never let Emhyr keep that promise.

——————

Takara Ayakashi scented the air and grimaced, so much, too much she thought as she stood upon the newly restored parapet of the Keeps rooftop.

The ringing of hammers, the rasp of the saw, the sound of metal striking stone. There were days when it was too much, today was such a day. She heard the footfalls on the steps leading up to the roof, the sound and tread familiar, the Master Stonemason was coming to deliver his bi-weekly report on their progress. It had been almost two years since they had started, and work had progressed fast, particularly when she had roped in the local mountain trolls for assistance.

The negotiations hadn’t been elegant, it had consisted of her grabbing the Troll Patriarch, picking him up by the throat and telling him she would cook him in his own cook pot if he didn’t stop harassing the workers.

He said his clan was hungry, she could relate, clan was important and food had become scarce since the workers had scared off a good portion of the game with all their infernal noise.

They had made a deal, she would see them fed, if they assisted with the build.

She was impressed with the foreman and the stone masons from Nilfgaard, they had taken it in stride as they utilised trolls on a regular basis across the Empire so they knew just how to manage them. The work pace had almost doubled as the trolls did the heavy workload, freeing up more masons to do the stonework.

“Master Hadrian, good morning,” she said as the middle aged human came out the door, she turned to watch the black haired human as he walked over to her and bowed, she wasn’t used to the humans bowing to her, wasn’t sure if she liked it but when she had queried it she had been told that she was a Lady and polite society dictated the manners. Polite society was annoying she decided.

“Lady Ayakashi, I hope you are well.” He said as he unrolled the maps he carried on the large wooden table that was placed up here for this exact purpose, placing the little weights down on the corners.

“I am, winter is almost here, are you and your men staying this year or will you put down your tools?” They had left last winter and so had she, coming back in the autumn to find that they had completed more work than she had assumed was possible.

Humans could surprise her still.

“We’re staying, the main keep is complete except for the walls, your suggestion of staying within the old witcher rooms that are part of the mountain was discussed with the company directors and we believe that by wintering here we can work on the wooden fixings for the outlying buildings, the bastion and the watchtower. On good days we can work on the walls.”

“Winter here is cold Master Hadrian, ensure that your men are adequately clothed. The lake won’t take long to fully ice over once winter hits and the air is sharp with frozen water. Thats how cold it gets.”

“I will, I’ve already ordered the winter gear, thank you by the way, the two large bucks you brought down yesterday were well received by the men.”

“A pleasure, now show me what you need done.”

He pointed out in the blue prints what had been completed that week and she smiled, the entirely of the Keep of Kaer Morhen was restored, only the walls remained. She had been there when they had finally cleared the rubble from the basements and had seen for the first time in 75 years the large in ground heated bathing chambers, the chambers were elven and had been kept as they were. The Nilfgaardians had been very excited to see it, they liked to bathe and they liked the history that they saw.

“We need to dismantle that wooden gauntlet,” he was saying as he pointed out a spot on the wall and she winced.

She extended her hand and stretched out one claw, ignoring the fiery pain that lanced along her arm from the injury sustained during winter, she tapped the plans and hid a growl as her claw pierced the paper as she did, she sighed.

“Please ensure that it's not damaged and it needs to be placed back as it was.”

She pulled back and tucked her hands in to her sleeves and then looked out over to the gauntlet, she was not ready to let that much go.

He hesitated then nodded, “We have new workers coming in today so I’ll have them remove it under Daven’s watch.”

“Are they aware that I am not human?”

“Yes my Lady, they are. After the first lot we took on we haven’t made that mistake.”

“No you haven’t.” The first group of workers had taken one look at her and all but ran for the hills. She didn’t blame them, she had returned bloodied and dragging a great white bear carcass by its neck. By the time that they had been rounded up several had died, one by running off a precipice, two by a water hag. She had killed the hag, but the other men had been so shaken she had asked if they could be returned and new workers gathered. It had been done.

“Well then Master Hadrian, I’ll leave it in your capable hands,” he bowed to her, gathered his blueprints and quickly left.

Takara turned back to survey the land, she missed the days when the strike of steel on silver rang through the crisp air as Witcher’s practiced their craft, the days when she would be challenged to give them a ‘bit of a workout’.

The days when the library had been used as Witcher's would bring her texts, maps and journals and tell her how they came about them, how they studied the reports and came together to discuss tactics on various monsters.

Now the air sounded with the discordant strike of steel on stone. She didn’t like it, but as she looked over the newly roofed sections of the keeps, the inner buildings now rebuilt, she was happy with what she saw.

As she looked out at the valley she removed her injured hand and massaged it, the pain along the nerves flared to life as she did and she allowed herself to grimace. The fight with that creature had been one of the most brutal fights of her life. Considering that Youkai were vicious fighters and she had fought wars with creatures that made the true nightmares of this world seem tame in comparison was something she couldn’t deny, she had won, barely.

She looked at her hand, it was perfect, the bone an muscles had grown back perfectly, the nerves however were taking their time.

It was healing, slowly.

Time was what was needed to heal, she dropped her hand resolved to let it heal in its own time.

She jumped up onto the parapet, crouching down as she watched the small group of about 15 workers being brought in. Then she leapt, jumping down from balcony to balcony, wall to wall, she landed in her clean swept and cobbled courtyard just as the inner gate was opened.

She let the men have a good look at her and then jumped into her tree, settling herself within the branches of the old oak that had stood for centuries. She pulled a book from her sleeve and started to read.

As the new contingent of workers walked by a scent caught her off-guard and she felt her hackles rise, it was a conscious effort of willpower to make sure her power didn’t rise with it.

Takara scented the air, the stench of unwashed bodies, hope, fear and there - hatred bordering on rage and underneath that a human scent she was familiar with.

She looked at the older man that it all emanated from, he was in his 40’s, his brown hair dirty and unkempt, steel grey at the temples, his brown eyes looked at her hatred in his gaze and his beard was as unkempt as his hair. She leapt down from the tree landing in front of the one who had her attention.

“Why are you here?” she asked, her voice a slight snarl, Hadrian and Draven frowned, she had never asked the new workers anything, preferring not to engage with them until they were used to her and the stench of fear was not so prevalent.

“Just makin me livin'.” the man said, his voice masculine but the accent was false.

“It's is quite a step down from the opulence you were once used too,” she replied, her tone falsely sweet. The man froze, the hatred in his eyes giving way to fear. He knew she knew who he was now.

“Don’t rightly knows what you mean,” he croaked sweat beading his brow, stepping back, the scent of terror and anger now mixed with the scent of him, he looked left and right searching for an escape. There was none to be had, he had come into her domain and she would hunt him down like a rabid dog if she must.

“Oh but you do,” she all but purred, her right hand flashing out and gripping the man along his lice ridden jaw. “You didn’t answer my question, I asked why are you here? This is a long way from the Temple of Eternal Fire High Priest Farziel Creivhon”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

 

Geralt sat where he’d been pointed to, a chair – and a comfortable one at that – that was situated near Emhyr's desk, in a study that had all but blown his mind when he had seen it.

The room was bigger than some great halls he had seen, with towering columns that supported an arched ceiling, one side was nothing but arched windows and several doors opening onto a balcony.  

The other side had bookshelves that almost reached the ceiling and needed a specialised ladder to reach.

Emhyr's desk was almost double the size of the one in Novigrad, and it sat at the end of the room, in front of a large window that was in the shape of Nilfgaard's Sun.  

Several other desks were scattered through the room, one of which was Ciri’s, he realised when she had sailed into the room minutes after he had sat down. A large ornate table was in the center of the room and currently supported a large map of the Empire. A familiar box sat on top of it, the Karakuri box that Takara had given Emhyr.

There were also several areas set up that were more comfortable lounging areas with chairs and divans, areas set away from the main focal area of the office. And Geralt knew the moment he had sat down and seen aids and attendants bustle about like busy little bees, this was the heart of the Empire itself.

This was where the Emperor ruled with an iron fist tempered in velvet and silk. He was impressed.

Several men and one woman stood before Emhyr's desk, hands filled with papers and reports, one was speaking.

“He confessed under truthful torture early this morning Sire.” Emhyr had just stared at the report with no expression whatsoever.

“Have him brought before me durning court this afternoon, I will declare his punishment then. You are certain he acted alone and there will be no more attempts from others on Sir Geralt's life?”

Geralt's ears pricked, they were talking about the assassination attempt on him.

“Yes Sire, it was a poorly played out response to Sir Geralt's arrival and you called of your ah - dalliance with him when you left for Redania.”

Geralt suddenly realised what they meant, it had been one of Emhyr's former lovers who had tried to off him, he couldn’t help but chuckle.

“Not helping Geralt,” Emhyr almost growled at him.

“You have to see the funny side of it, my ex lovers have the ability to level mountains and have refrained from going after you. Yours decides to go after me not knowing a thing about Witchers. Did you have a penchant for idiots?”

“No, I had a penchant for those who knew when not to test me.”

“Yeah, I test your patience all the time and I've yet to have a tour of any prison you have. Admit it, I've grown on you.”

Emhyr just swivelled his chair, the thing swung about easily, and looked at Geralt, who knew he had a smug smile gracing his lips. He contemplated blowing Emhyr a kiss for good measure but decided he’d pushed his luck enough.

“Yes, I suppose you have grown on me, like fungus, and if you want a tour of my dungeon Geralt, I’ll arrange it soon enough.” 

The purr in those words made him pause, and the heavy silence from the attendants made Geralt realise there was more going on in that statement than he knew.

He broke down the sentence, and realised the words ‘my dungeon’ held a connotation from that bloody black book Lanfare had given him, his eyes almost bugged out of his head.

Emhyr had a dungeon for sexual games?

Oh fuck.

Emhyr gave him a sensual smile and turned back, “Ensure that the route that the poison was delivered into the wine is found and never utilised again. It’s the first successful poison attempt in a palace banquet in over a decade.”

The four attendants bowed and Emhyr dismissed them.

Then he beckoned Adventis over and handed him a slip of paper, Adventis took it, scanned it and then trotted over to the bookshelves and pulled out several texts, coming back to Geralt to give them to him.

Geralt was startled but took them all the same, scanning the titles as he did.  ‘Court etiquette: how to act in the Golden Court of Nilfgaard.’ He pursed his lips when he read the title, boring he thought.

He scanned the second one and raised his eyebrow, volume two, what’s the bet the third one was the third volume, he looked at it, damn he was good, he thought sarcastically.

“Let me guess, you didn’t like my speech?”
“Actually your speech was well thought out, eloquent and sung the Empire's praises while delivering its truth. Well done.”

“But three books on court etiquette?” He asked drolly.

“Yes and as a student of Lady Takara I expect you will take them seriously. It was an oversight on my behalf in not getting you acquainted with them before we arrived.”
“You want to turn me into a well heeled trophy lover?” He teased.
“No, but I would have you see how knowing what etiquette is appropriate in certain situations is a weapon of the mind. It's all about games Geralt and keeping yourself safe.”

“Yeah but you get to order people whipped if they don’t bow correctly.” He muttered.

Emhyr ignored him and turned back to a stack of reports that needed his attention. Geralt cracked the first volume open and started reading, yep, he thought as he read the first sentence, boring. 

Emhyr was coldly furious as he worked his way through the morning reports, he wrote his orders and vetoed several previous orders that a few senate members had made in his name. He’d follow those up with meetings in the next few day. 

They wouldn’t be starting with well done and good work.

He was furious that it was due to his own misreading of a certain lover that had resulted in Geralt being targeted, it was a failure on his behalf and had placed Geralt in danger.

He hated that it was his fault.

He saw Geralt stand from the corner of his eye and watched him wander over to Ciri, he bent down and whispered something in her ear to which she immediately nodded her head.

She stood up and suddenly ordered everyone from the room, they didn’t hesitate doing as instructed and Ciri turned to Geralt and hugged him, “I’ll give you half an hour and honestly Geralt, no funny business.”

“Lanfare banned that.”

She chuckled, “Might go raise a toast to him then.”

Emhyr heard Geralt grumble, something about her being the death of him, her tinkling laugh, open and gregarious followed as she walked out the door.

Emhyr sat back in his upholstered chair, the cushion Geralt had given him after a certain night firmly planted under his backside. It helped his back from the ache that developed when he sat too long.

“Is there a particular reason you had Ciri kick everyone out?”

“Yes, we need to talk.”

“Oh?” He said flatly, he was expecting this talk, from the moment Ciradis had been named as Geralt's assassin, Geralt must be disappointed in him. That Emhyr's former lover had tried to kill Geralt.

“Yes, you can’t control another person's actions Emhyr, and I can sense and smell that you're angry. Not only at whoever this man was, but at yourself.  The actions of your former lover were not your own.” Geralt came around his desk and perched on it next to him, reaching out a hand. Emhyr knew what he was after and took it in his own. The thumb rubbing his pulse point was soothing.

“My fault, I should have seen his jealousy.”

“Nope, he let you down sure, not your fault though. And I mean it Emhyr, don’t beat yourself up over this. I'm also much more understanding of how cutthroat this court is now, and I’ll take better care not to let anyone get the drop on me.”

Emhyr sighed and tugged at Geralt's hand, pulling him towards him. He kissed him with restrained passion and Geralt responded, but kept it as restrained as Emhyr was.  

Lanfare's bloody rule rearing its head, he thought sourly.

By the Great Sun he was looking forward to indulging in Geralt on a proper bed.

Geralt pulled back, “If I find out Lanfare was pulling our collective chains just for fun I'm going to geld him.”

“He wouldn’t,” Emhyr said with utter conviction, “When are you seeing him for a dressing change and healing session?”
“He sent me a letter telling me to come to his quarters in the healers section of the Palace at eleven bells.”

Emhyr quickly did a bell check, looking over at a section near him that had a golden arrow pointing at a number, ten bells.

“I’ll have Adventis escort you there.”

“What? Think I'll get lost,” Geralt teased again.

Emhyr looked at him with a raised eyebrow, “If you know where it is by all means Witcher take yourself there, but the palace is large and it will take you about 25 minutes to get to the healers wing of the palace.”

Geralt grumbled and stood up from the desk, “Fine, Adventis can escort me. In fact how about you have someone show me everything. I won’t get lost once I’ve had a tour.”

Emhyr thought about it for a minute, the idea had merit, “I'll arrange for someone to take you on a tour tomorrow,” he already had the perfect person in mind. “I need you at the throne room by one bell for court.”

“Bodyguard?”

“Of course not, not until that hand heals, I have to pronounce judgement on Ciradis and as the injured party in this you need to be there.”

Geralt nodded his head, his eyes a little bleak but resolute, he was a very intelligent man and knew what the punishment would be.

“Now go find Lanfare and tell everyone I want them back in here.”
“Will do, see you soon.” Geralt leant in and kissed Emhyr quickly, pulling back before he could respond, he was very tempted to push him back on the table and have his wicked way with him.

But he refrained and watched as his Witcher walked out the door, calling out that the Emperor was to be attended to and that Adventis had been ordered to escort him.

-

Lanfare was quick and efficient as always, Geralt however had the sense to ask if he had healed enough to tumble Emhyr into bed. Lanfare's response had been expected, “Of course you can tumble him into bed,” it had raised Geralt's hopes then cruelly dashed them when he continued with, “For sleep only and a cuddle, that’s always good in a relationship.”

Geralt had given him a flat look and sarcastically said “Thanks,” his nemesis had just chuckled and finished what he was doing, and then showed him out the door with strict instructions not to wet his hand.

As he walked out into the main healers wing he saw Ciri standing there, arms crossed over her chest, her long hair braided up and in a bright emerald green dress.  

She grinned at him, “Father said to take you on a tour to the Throne Room and show you the sights between here and there, we have an hour before we need to be there.”

Geralt paused, a little surprised that she was getting out of her duties, then he thought about it, mindless tasks to make her want power. He grinned back at her,

“Where’re we going brat?”

“I’m going to give you a tour of the gardens.”

“Tour away then kiddo.”

With that Ciri took him through a series of rooms and corridors, and a walkway that lead from one part of the Palace to another, she pointed out the sections as they did, the room where she was allowed to travel in with her powers, the council chambers where the councillors had their rooms and studies. As they walked, they talked and the one thing Geralt was trying to get out of her was why she wasn’t yet feeling like she was competent enough to rule. They had just reached the water gardens and had been wandering the stone paths maundering through various ponds and flowing streams filled with colourful fish and beautiful water plants, Ciri decided to sit under the branches of a swaying willow, a bench in place for rest.

Her response had been illuminating, “I know I should be ready and yes I ruled for the last twenty months, but Father was always there when I had an issue or needed help on how to negotiate with the senate, when its time, he won’t be there to lean on and that scares me.”

“He won’t be staying?”

”No, he can’t” she sighed, “For the transition of power to be effective he needs to move far enough away from me so that he can’t be accused of being a power behind the Throne.”

“Where will he go, we go?” He amended, more than curious because all he knew was that when Ciri was Empress he and Emhyr were getting married.

“There are several options, Toussaint is one, you have the estate you could both retire too,Novigrad, I could also appoint him as Grand Duke of Redania. Although as lovely as Corvo is it would need to be upgraded, the Manor would be seen as too small, your bedroom for one is tiny.”

“It’s the perfect size to sleep in,” he defended his home.

“Father fell out of bed at least three times when I was there, I heard the thumps and your laughter above his curses. I have no idea how he managed not to fall out while you and he were, well you know.”

Geralt looked at her horrified, “We didn’t touch each other while you upstairs.”

“Really?” She said sceptically.

“Yes, we waited until we were alone.”

“Explains why Father kicked us off to Beauclair two times.” She replied with a chuckle.

Geralt flushed, “I can’t believe you didn’t order a set of leathers from LaFarge.”

“I already have three and besides I try to not be as extravagant these days.”

Geralt wanted to groan, Emhyr had been quite smug when Ciri had come back that day, he had quizzed her on her purchases and she had indicated bolts of fabric and a few new dresses for Elka.  No armour. Geralt had lost that bet and 7 months on he was still waiting for Emhyr to tell him what he was owed. He had honestly expected Emhyr to call it in when they reached Loc Grim, but he hadn’t.

“You can tell him what I said, maybe he would understand.” She stood up and on continued her way, taking them out of the water gardens, which Geralt was certain he was going to be enjoying quite a bit, it would be a beautiful spot to meditate in.

She walked them through a Gallery filled with portraits and museum quality elven pottery, stone carvings and hunting trophy’s. He stopped dead when he came to a royal griffin, fully stuffed and preserved, its wing reattached and the stitching along the gut wound almost invisible.

The plaque that sat at its base was dated and said that it had been brought down in fierce battle by Emperor Torres var Emreis. Geralt scoffed. “The bastard did claim my kill as his own” he muttered.

“Say what?” Ciri said puzzled, Geralt told her the story about how he had taken down the Royal Griffin after being contracted to by the local garrison commander. 

She stared at the Plaque and shook her head, “Well how about that.” Then she looked up at him with a wiry grin, “We need to pick up the pace. Court is about to start and I need to take the heir’s Throne.”

Geralt nodded and together they picked up the pace.  

They arrived in one of the largest throne rooms that Geralt had seen, in fact it dwarfed the throne room in Vizima. Black marble veined in gold took the floor with a long red carpet down the centre of the room leading to the throne. Granite columns polished to a high shine were evenly spaced, each one had a pair of the Impera Brigade standing to attention, their pikes crossed together. And along each column the pennants of Nilfgaard hung.

The room was filled with light from both the large windows on the north wall and from the sky-dome in the ceiling, which held beautiful crystal chandeliers. Incense wafted up from the censers mounted on the columns, filling the room with a subtle scent that was pleasant but verging on overpowering to his sensitive nose. Above the censers were lit torches in elegant gold brackets, ornate and stunning, why they were needed when the place was filled with light he couldn’t guess at.

The room was fast filling up with nobles that took obviously coveted spots that they and they alone belonged to. Ciri walked him up to the dais and Geralt saw the Throne of the Imperators of Nilfgaard, he tried to stop the blush which he knew was creeping up along his face, he was reminded of Emhyr’s oft repeated promise to take Geralt on his throne.

In fact he had whispered just how he was going to take Geralt bent over the seat, the arm rest, on his knees before him.

The fantasies that Emhyr had shared had made him hard and aching and he felt himself respond. Nope, he thought, he was not going to crack an erection right now, and willed his body to behave.

He had to admit it wasn’t the largest throne he had seen but it was still imposing, it was tall for one, and made from Black Ebony wood, gold gilt highlighting the Golden Sun on the back of the throne, right where Emhyr’s head would have been resting.  

There was a small throne sitting on the Dias three steps down on a wide platform step,Geralt assumed it was Ciri’s.

Ciri pointed to where Mererid already stood to attention, “Stay with Mererid Geralt.” She whispered and then all but disappeared behind him in to a back door.

Geralt walked over to Mererid, “Master Mererid.”

“Sir Geralt, your hand is better?”

“Yes Lanfare is healing it, three more sessions and it should be good.”
Mererid nodded and then stood to attention even further as a trumpet blast sounded, Geralt was certain it was a call to arms.

Ciri gracefully walked out and up the steps to the dais where a much smaller throne was seated below the Emperor’s throne and off to the right. As everyone curtsied to her, Mererid intoned “Her Imperial Highness, Crown Princess of Nilfgaard,  Cirilla Fiona Ellen Rhiannon var Emreis, Queen of Cintra, Princess of Brugge and Duchess of Sodden, heiress of Inis Arn Skellig and Inis Ard Skellig and Suzerain of Attra and Abb Yarra.” 

 What a bloody mouthful, thought Geralt, suddenly understanding Ciri’s reluctance to take over, she had a very big responsibility.

When she stood before her throne, another blast of trumpets blasted out with a much more exultant song. Everyone sunk into a deep bow, far deeper to bended knee.

Emhyr walked out, dressed in all his imperial Glory and as Mererid intoned Emhyr’s full list of titles, Geralt loved that particularly stunning long tunic he was wearing, the one Takara had given him the cloth for.

Geralt had to remind his cock that it wasn’t getting anything and to behave for once. He was thankful that as a Witcher the mutations kept his unruly cock in check, most of the time. A little black fox darted after him and Geralt stopped the smile from spreading.

When Emhyr took his throne, another blast of trumpets obviously signalled everyone there could stand up and Geralt wanted to laughed as Coal wiggled under the throne. He was pretty certain that the fox wasn’t supposed to be here, but the thing managed to turn up where you least expected it to.

He turned his full attention back to Emhyr just as he ordered, “Brengen hem,” and with a clang the black and gold door swung open and a young man in his late twenties was all but dragged in, he was in chains and ard’Enthiel lead the armed men, as they arrived at the throne, Fainrael bowed low and then walked up the dais and took Geralt’s usual spot behind Emhyr.

Emhyr’s look could have frozen fire it was that cold, his men man handled the handsome lanky man to his knees, as they did Ciradis looked up and Geralt realised he had seen him at the banquet, his gaze had barely left Geralt all night. He wanted to laugh, he was the complete opposite of him that it shocked him, this was Emhyr’s former lover?

 “Ciradis tor Etrán, you have confessed under truthful torture to the poisoning attempt on Sir Geralt of Rivia, my personal bodyguard and my lover. There is no need to plead for clemency or mercy, you will receive none. Any attack on Geralt is an attack on me, this is accepted fact and yet you tried to poison a Witcher, a laughable attempt considering they’re immune to poisons.”

Ciradis flinched at that and lowered his head, Emhyr paused, Geralt didn’t think he would air his own personal laundry out in Court and was thankful when all Emhyr did was pronounce sentence.

“You will be executed for treason and attempted murder, your beheading will take place with the next public beheading in 2 weeks time. Take him away.”

As the brigade took the man away, who had started to sob, Geralt felt sorry for the man, but he also knew that Emhyr would show no mercy, he was vicious in protecting those he considered his.

He also knew that Nilfgaards justice was swift.

He heard someone come up behind him, steady but fast tread, wearing armour and the slight clink of two swords tapping each other as the man moved. A Witcher, the scent as familiar as his own.

Eskel.

Eskel leaned in and whispered in his ear from behind, “You need to tell him that Takara is about to descend and she is not happy over something.”

Geralt blinked, he hadn’t expected Takara to descend, he hoped to the God’s that she wasn’t here about the attempted assassination. Ciradis wouldn’t last the hour.

“How long?” He hissed.

“Less than three minutes.”

Geralt turned to the Chamberlain, “Mererid, I need to talk to him, urgently.”

Mererid scowled at him but obviously saw something on his face that turned the scowl into a worried frown, he nodded his head, “Now before I call the first petitioner.”

Geralt hurried up the stairs and approached Emhyr, who looked up at him, an eyebrow raised in question.

Geralt bowed and whispered what Eskel had just told him, Emhyr stared at him for few seconds.

“She’s coming right now?” Geralt nodded at the question.

Emhyr looked about at the gathering of nobles before him, “Well this is going to be interesting,” he stated calmly.

Geralt couldn’t agree more, in fact he would consider it an understatement, thankfully the Brigade who were here had seen Takara take form through fire once before and would respond to Emhyr’s orders.

He was worried about just what had irritated the Guardian of Kaer Morhen’s Library enough that she was coming here.

Emhyr was a little worried, Takara usually took her human form in a new city until he told her it was okay to shift, the fact she wasn’t made him wonder at her anger.

As he waited, few minutes passed and he noticed the looks people were throwing at each other and a few that were directed at him, confusion from some, derision from others, he noted the derision.

Suddenly the wall sconces erupted into blue flame, the flame left the torches and swirled in a blue wonder into the centre of the area before the dais, he was happy to note that none of the Brigade responded as if he was being threatened.

His nobles on the other hand, some were yelling, some cursing and the ones closest to the swirling inferno backed away. All of them showed varying degrees of panic and fear.

As the flames wrapped around each other in a sudden woosh the fire exploded upwards in a blue streak that hit the dome, and there was Takara.  

She was wearing a very formal outfit, a dress that was long and flowing, her two swords at her side, in white and silver with the most incredible embroidery that he know knew she did herself.

It was a direct contrast to his own and he couldn’t help but be amused by the message, her long white hair was up with two silver sticks holding it back.

He noticed the slight red tinge to her eyes, yes he thought, she was definitely irritated about something. Her nose scrunched up and she narrowed her eyes at the incense censer, he made a note to order less incense used, he knew her nose was far more sensitive to smells and she obviously didn’t like this one.

“Lady Takara Ayakashi, Guardian of the keep of Kaer Morhen, former Empress of the Southern Lands on the World of Nivonn. Brought to this world in the first conjunction of the spheres.” Mererid intoned, a slight hitch in his voice.

Takara raised an elegant brow and flicked her gaze to his Chamberlain, he had ordered Mererid to give her those titles if she was ever introduced formally to the court. The whispers turned louder as his court reacted to her titles and the implications that they held.

He heard muffed yells from behind her and noticed people whispering and pointing to her.

She reached back and brought two of her tails about, he was surprised to see someone tied up and gagged, with an ungentle hand, claws included she griped her prisoner by the ruff of his neck and brought him to her, holding him with one hand.

“You had better not have given me fleas or the Emperor will be the very least of your concerns,” she all but snarled and shook him like a rag done, quite show of her strength. She then threw him five meters across the floor with enough force that Emhyr heard the shoulder break when he hit the ground hard.

A muffled pain filled shriek came from the dishevelled, filthy peasant. Even he could smell him now and knew that it would have been worse for Takara.

As the muffled cries of pain faded to whimpers, Takara gave him a half bow, “Your orders, Your Imperial Majesty, were to bring him before you in chains. Kicking and screaming if necessary. I can have him kicking if you desire it.” She gave him a savage, somewhat victorious look.
He blinked, thinking back to when he would have ordered someone brought.

He smiled, coldly, cruelly and stood up, walking down the five steps of the dais.

Farziel Creighvon.” He all but purred, his deep masculine voice rang through the hall, exceedingly happy that Creighvon had finally been found. “High Priest of the now disbanded and banned Temple of the Eternal Fire, how good of you to finally come.” He looked up to Takara who had moved to the side but her focus was still on Creighvon, “Where did you find him Lady Takara?”

She held something in her hand, a leather cord, “It’s not often that prey walks into my home but considering this one did I thought I would bring him to you.”

“I thank you for it, Creighvon you and I have a lot to discuss, Commander var Krail take him to the palace dungeons.”

A man that he knew quite well and the Commander of the Impera Brigade itself detached himself from a wall and came over, a few finger flicks brought several men to him.

They weren’t gentle with Creighvon, hauling him to his feet and ignoring the broken shoulder.

Muffled yells and curses from the priest abounded as they all but dragged him from the Throne Room. 

Takara walked a few steps towards him holding out the leather cord, he took it and saw it was a gold and ruby ring engraved with the mark of the Church and given only to the twelve high priests.

“Thank you –“

Takara hissed, the unexpected noise startled him and his eyes flew to meet hers, they had reddened up and she was staring at him, her nose crinkled as if she was scenting something unpleasant. To his utter confusion she asked him a question.

“Emhyr var Emreis” her voice held a slight snarl that he had only heard once before, when she had been accosted by a believer of the eternal fire, “Why do you smell like a child of my kind?

 

 

 

 

Next chapter is done and will be up as soon as I get it back from my Beta.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

 

Emhyr blinked, trying to pinpoint when he had come into contact with a child today, other than Elka.

Geralt started to chuckle, “Knew that fox wasn’t normal.”

Emhyr's eyes widened as he realised what Geralt meant, he turned around to see Geralt bend over and peer under his throne, he reached in and swore.

“Stop biting my hand Coal,” Geralt growled and then pulled the kit out by the scruff of his neck.

The kitsune struggled in Geralt's grip trying to get out of it when suddenly Takara was there beside Geralt, she had moved too fast to really see and he heard his nobles respond to how fast she was.

She gripped the kit by the tail and Geralt let go in surprise, backing away from her, she held Coal up so they were eye to eye, without any warning her magics swirled around her and the kit.

Emhyr held his breath, he could see Takara wasn’t happy, he had first thought it was directed at him for having a child of her kind, but her anger was directed at the kit itself. It shocked him, she was usually great around children, so why would she respond so to a child of her race?

The kit screeched in fear as the blue flames surrounded him and Emhyr's heart sank, he hadn’t thought Takara was the kind to kill a child.

Geralt, however responded, he drew his silver blade, Eskel hesitated then drew his as well.

Ard’Enthiel was down the steps and at his side in seconds, another guard at Ciri's side was pushing her away from what looked like a fight. His nobles were responding to it as well.

This wasn’t good.

Takara just looked at Geralt, her face unreadable, “You would bare your blade to me when you do not understand what is going on?” She asked coldly.

“I would protect a child if I have to, even from you.” Was all the Witcher said as both Eskel and Geralt fell into a fighting stance. “Let him go Takara.”

She smiled, “How honourable of you Geralt of Kaer Morhen.” She looked at the blue flames dancing over the kit, “Henkei suru,” she hissed, the fire erupted into a blue inferno and a shrill shriek of fear echoed.

“NO,” cried out Geralt in shock and surprise, horror and grief crossing his face.

The fire fell away almost immediately but Geralt had moved towards Takara, his sword streaking silver as he came at her just as Takara dropped a naked and shivering six year old with a black tail and kitsune ears to the floor and caught Geralt's blade bare handed.

Emhyr sucked in a breath, the fact that she could catch a silver sword with only her bare hand, from a witchers powerful swing, no injuries not only shocked him but scared him.  He knew she was powerful but not like this.

Coal landed on his hands and feet and immediately was kneeling before Takara, head on his hands bowing, his tail tucked between his legs.

Takara looked at the kit dispassionately, then looked at Geralt, cocking her head in that inhuman way, Emhyr nearly smacked himself, that was the head cock that Coal often did had felt so familiar. He should have put two and two together.

“Unlike most of the Kitsune a Kuro Kitsune has no power until they reach majority, they must be forced to change by the power of an adult, usually a parent. This is one of several reasons they are anathema to most of the Kitsune Youkai, they’re often killed at birth. I have never in my long life killed a child of any species, I will not start with Kuro Kitsune. My orders when I took the throne were torturous death to any and all who killed a child or harboured a child killer. That included the Kuro Kitsune,” She let go of Geralt's sword.

Geralt flushed a bit, he and Eskel both put up their swords, sheathing them back in their holders. “Sorry,” he husked a bit sheepishly.

“You saw a threat to a child Geralt and reacted as you should have. I am proud of you for standing up to me, even though it wasn’t necessary, you as well Eskel.” She turned her formidable attention to Coal, “You have not spoken before, but you know how to speak, we are all born knowing how to, you will look at me and tell me you name.”

The boy hesitated and then looked up at her, she looked down, raising an eyebrow as she stared at him.

It sounded harsh to Emhyr, she still wasn’t treating him like she would Elka or Baldwin, in fact she seemed quite antagonistic towards the boy.

He stammered a bit stumbled over the sounds coming from his mouth, then managed to say a word, “Funn,” his young voice was tight and thin with fear and terror.

Funn?” Takara questioned, disgust and censure in her own voice, “I am not calling a child a word synonymous with bad luck, you are kuro thus you are clan-less, not claimed by blood or kin,” she looked at Emhyr, “I wish to be excused.”

Emhyr didn’t think, he had always known she wasn’t human, but she acted very human like, he had seen flashes of this before, but this was a reminder of what she was.

“Of course, you must have a few things to talk about to the only other of your kind on this word.” He said to remind her, she had been the only one, she had said she missed her kin and clan.

She looked at him, he could see that she knew his message for what it was. “I’ll have you seen to a private room.”

“A large tree would be preferable, the child and I need to ground ourselves and a room will not do.”

“Your Imperial Majesty, I can take her to the oak in the Imperial gardens.” Offered Eskel, bowing to him.

Emhyr nodded decisively and looked at Takara, “Will you be staying for a while?”

“Is that an invitation?” She asked with amusement.

“It is.”

“I will give you my answer soon enough, will be that be acceptable?.”

Emhyr nodded his head, Takara gave slight bow, one that would be used between rulers hen looked at Eskel.

“Show me this oak.”

Eskel nodded and took her arm, Takara looked at the boy, still bowing at her feet.

“Follow and walk on two feet.” She ordered, the boy shakily got to his feet and followed after her and Eskel, Emhyr watched as he stumbled and when he went to hit the floor he smiled a little when one of Takara’s tails whipped out and caught him, righting him before he could hurt himself.

She wasn’t being kind to the boy but she was attentive to him, he realised.

He had a funny feeling that he had just lost his pet, but Takara had gained one of her kind, he didn’t mind that in the least.

He turned and walked back up the dais, he looked at Ciri who was standing in front of the throne of the Heir, her eyes wide as she watched Takara leave the hall with Eskel.

Emhyr sat and watched his confused and somewhat scared nobles, whatever happened during Takara’s visit, he had a feeling it would keep his nobles guessing. He was looking forward to seeing how she shook them up.

“Mererid, continue.”

Mererid bowed low, when he stood back up, Emhyr's chief Chamberlain called the first petitioner, “Margrave Garrus var Kerrian,”

Emhyr wanted to groan, he knew what this was about. What a pain, he thought as the Margrave bowed before him and then launched into a story involving him and his perceived enemies.

It was going to be one of those court sessions.

The type he hated.

 —

Takara wandered halls of marble and gold, she noted the elegance and extravagance that abounded in equal measure as she walked with Eskel to this tree. She had to put the child back on his feet several times since he had started after her but he now had the walking down pat. A talented child, she thought. It had taken her three days to be able to walk without falling.

Pity he had been abandoned at birth.

“Why don’t you like him?” Asked her child of valour and spirit.

She thought about how to explain her instincts, instincts that she had to fight against to be able to behave like a human. She knew she had failed in that regard this day, she had shocked and horrified those around her.

“It's not a question of not liking him, it's more that he has no kin or clan. In my culture he is an outcast, in this case abandoned at birth. Never claimed as a babe, my instincts tell me to turn away from him, coupled with the fact that he is in my territory and interacting with those who I choose to guard. I am fighting very hard not to turn away and the instinct to fight him out of my territory. Any other Kitsune and I would be fighting for dominance.” She inhaled, smelling turned earth, flowers and the soft scent of an old oak on the air. They weren’t far from this garden.

“But you’re one of the most powerful of your kind.”

The most powerful Eskel, I would not have retained my position if I wasn’t powerful enough to hold it, all those who challenged me died.”

“Huh, so you fight to the death?”

“Yes, or they challenge again and again, my race is unbelievably arrogant in their belief in themselves. It is the wise one who understands their limitations.”

She concentrated and realised the click click of claws on marble had stopped, she turned around and saw the boy had stopped a few feet back and was hunched into himself.

She looked at him, “I am not accustomed to waiting, you will walk or I will make you.”

The boy walked towards her, his body language conveying terror, she sighed silently to herself, it won't be for long she told herself. 

“I need to ground myself Eskel, all these instincts rearing their heads are making me fight my nature, I do not wish for this, I am better than that.”

“Nearly there,” he assured her, they turned back and picked up the pace a little and within a few minutes walking the corridors they walked out into a covered path and she saw a large guarded complex, in the center was an oak of respectable age, she smiled to see it and already felt better.

“You may stay and watch if you desire.” With that she snaked out a tail and gripped the boy around the waist, ignoring his shrill warble of fear, a Kits call and one that she knew the humans heard as a cry, but she knew the Kitsune tongue, he was begging her not to hurt him.

She took off to the tree and within seconds had crossed the paths and flower beds and was in the curve of a tree branch sitting back against the trunk, one foot dangling off the limb, bringing the boy to her so he was sitting on her lap.

“Now,” she said in the kitsune tongue, “We will talk.”

He quivered in her lap, she could feel him as he shook, she sighed “I will not hurt you, I give you my word,” a promise, a bond she could not break.

His shaking subsided, “Now I assume you came through 6 winters ago?” She asked, remembering the witcher reports of the Conjunction of the Spheres that Ciri had started, the boy nodded.

“Did any others come through with you?”

He shook his head again, and Takara thought hard about what she planned to do knowing she was lonely, there was no denying it and here was one of her kind, a child no less.  She could not ignore him nor would she abandon one to fend for himself.

It really didn’t take her long to sort the pros and cons, “Unless another portal opens we cannot go back, I have been caught within this world for fifteen hundred years. I have created a life here child, and with your permission I would share that life with you.”

He darted his eyes up to her, full of shock and a little hope, he stammered over words, not used to making the words form and she let him speak, “B-b-but I’m Kuro. You’re th-the Heika, you can’t have me.”

“I can have who I choose youngling and I am choosing you as my kit,  my blood, kin and clan. I will only do so with your consent though.”

He stared at her, his eyes watered and tears leaked from his yellow eyes, so like her own.  

“Y-you w-want me?”

“Yes.” She let his tears flow, he cried and she understood why, abandoned and hated at birth he would have been alone from the start, beaten or killed if found. If she ever found the ones who condemned him to that existence she would rip them apart, slowly.

She reached up and with the corner of her sleeve and wiped his tears away. “Will you be mine, my kit?” She whispered, hope and fear within her own heart, she realised she wanted this, craved it in fact, her loneliness held such desolation and pain. Pain she had tried to stop with the school of the wolf, and while it had certainly helped her through the centuries it wasn’t the same as being around one of your own.

The kit froze, silent and quite, he hesitated and then nodded his head, relief and joy flowed through her, he was hers.

A claiming was instinctive, she didn’t need to explain the process to him, parents often did it at birth when the kit had just been born.

While he couldn’t respond the way a babe would, he would respond as if he were being taken into a new clan, he would know what to do.

“I am Takara Meiyo Hanei Ayakashi, I ruled the Southern Lands as Empress, daughter of Takashi and Sakura Hanei.” She picked up her uninjured hand and sliced a deep wound in her thumb then dragged it across his forehead, his hands shook as he did the same to her. His blood a small streak across her forehead, she felt her power ignite and swirl around them, dancing slowly to tune only she could hear.

“Blood of my blood.” she whispered, he repeated her words.

She raised her hand to his lips and he bit down, his tiny nascent fangs taking flesh as he did, he raised his hand to her and she took the smallest bite she could.

“Flesh of my flesh.” And he followed where she led.

He gave her his hand, the small cut still bleeding, hers had closed and she sliced into it again, then clasped the two wounds together. For the first time since her father had died a tear slid down her pale cheek, “I name you Haru Hoseki Hanei Ayakashi, bound to me as my kin. Bound to me by blood and bound to my clan by power.

She watched his eyes widen as her power swelled, turning from the dancing blue flame, usually it was silver streaked blue, it flowed between them aligning him to her, and her to him. They were surrounded by her light, the strength of her aura, she felt the soft and inquisitive touches of his mind and reached out to his.

He had a young and gentle mind, it wasn’t burdened with fear and terror from his past, but she sensed that he had been very scared on their world. Here he had been happy, just dealing with the stresses of living in a true form, she wanted to laugh when she felt Emhyr in his mind, her kit was bonded to Nilfgaard's Emperor. With a gentle smile she watched as her blood seeped into his skin and her clan markings blossomed across his brow, blue, the colour of her clan.

“Heika’s clan,” he whispered as he went to touch her forehead, he stopped, torn about touching her, she took his small hand in hers and bent her head, letting him trace the same markings that now graced his brow.

“Now your clan Haru, and please don’t call me Heika, here I am not Empress.”

“W-w-what I do I call you?”

“You can call me Takara, and if in time you feel comfortable, Hahaue.”

“Hahaue,” he leaned in his yellow eyes dropping, and she cuddled him to her, she let him curl up in her lap, his ear above her heart listening to its steady beat as his breath changed and he fell into sleep.

“Yes Haru,” she whispered, letting her aura move back into its nascent shape, twinkling blue flames, much more than normal floated around her and in the branches of the oak. She felt the power of the green life flow into her grounding her. For the first time in fifteen hundred years, the part of her soul that had cried out for kin silenced. She felt true peace.

 ——

It’s short but it ends where it needed to end :)

 

I chose the Kanji for Haru that means Eternal treasure, because to Takara he is her treasure.

Hoseki: Jewel

Hanei: Prosperity

Meiyo: Honour

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

 

Geralt walked out into the Imperial Garden and stopped suddenly, his escort froze as well, both the witcher and the Emperor couldn’t help but stare at the sight that Takara presented. 

He was used to seeing her up an oak tree.  

Emhyr wasn’t but that wasn’t what had made them stop, it was the way she was so completely relaxed and how her power danced around her and the boy in her arms in little balls of blue flame that winked in and out of existence.

“Well that's something you don’t see everyday,” murmured Ciri from next to Geralt.

There was also quite the crowd gathered watching her and the whispers ran rife. He smelt Eskel before he saw him and then with Emhyr's arm still linked with his, he walked over to the other witcher who was leaning against a column watching the surroundings intently.

“What ever she did with that boy was something I can’t explain. I think it tired her out, she’s been asleep for the last three hours,” he stated in his gravely voice.

“I assure you I am fully awake,” Takara called across the large expanse of ground and the whispers rose, Geralt was hearing some of it now, they were passing on the rumours of what had happened in Novigrad. Her part in that affair had spread back to Nilfgaard and had made the rounds, all the while Emhyr's reports had been that the nobles had scoffed at the idea of a sentient creature being able to do what she had done. In other words they had believed she didn’t exist.

“May we approach?” Emhyr called out to her.

“Of course, it’s your palace. I would not stop you from going anywhere you choose to go your Imperial Majesty.”

Emhyr, Geralt and Eskel who had offered Ciri his arm stepped out and walked towards her, they passed flowers and plants that Geralt had few names for, they were ones not grown in the North. The scent though was beautiful.

As they came closer to the old oak Takara shifted, bringing her leg that was cocked up over and sat on the branch, her flame moved and gathered under her feet and when it was all together she stood and gently floated to the ground. She stepped off the flaming cloud as she neared the ground and walked over to them, as she did she shifted the sleeping black haired little boy onto her hip.

Geralt was startled to see the blue markings that sometimes came over her brow and cheeks were in full form and they were on the boys as well.

“Takara?”

“Yes Geralt.”

“What did you do?”

She smiled so gently at the child’s head and nuzzled into his hair, the sight made Geralt's chest ache.

“I claimed him, he is mine and I am his, part of my blood and flesh. He is blood, clan and Kin Geralt, my kit, my child, my son.”

Geralt felt his breath catch at her words and Eskel sighed a sound of relief. “So no need to fight those instincts?”

Takara chuckled, “None at all Child of Valour and Spirit and thank you, it was most helpful to concentrate on telling you what I was feeling.” She reached out her left hand and brushed the back of her curled fingers over his cheek.

Geralt frowned, she wasn’t using her hand correctly, hadn’t  been since she arrived, he realised. She had had to drop the Kit and turn to him to catch his blade, she should’ve just caught it with her left hand and she wouldn’t have needed to move.

“What’s wrong with your hand?” He said as he reached out and took her hand as she pulled it away from Eskel, he could feel the stiffness in her fingers that told him she had damage to the nerves and tendons. He had never seen or heard of her receiving a rather serious injury before. Eskel shifted and he too took a hold of her hand, Geralt let him take it.

“Perceptive of you Geralt. It is healing Child of Honour and Fire, like all serious injuries it is taking its time, but it should be healed by winter.”

“Yes but what caused it?”

“I will tell you in time, suffice to say my own arrogance played a part in it, it was a timely reminder as well.” She had raised an eyebrow at him as she spoke, she was cryptic as she said it and he knew that he wouldn't get a word out of her until she was ready.

Takara looked at Emhyr and gave him a rather sly half smile, her yellow eyes twinkled in jest as she did.

“I would like to accept your invitation, Haru has bonded to you and I would keep him here for a while while he and I start our own bonding. Having you around will help him to make this transition.”

“Bonded? To me?” Surprise and if Geralt was honest not a little laughter coloured Emhyr's voice.

“Yes he really likes you, you were the first adult to show him love and he loves you for it.”

“What about me, he’s pissed all over my boots three times?” Grumbled Geralt, a little put out about that still.

“He likes you but is annoyed by you in equal measure, he likes you because you love Emhyr and is annoyed by how much attention you get from him, he also understands that you and Emhyr are mated. I’ll talk to him about his behaviour, if he does it again, he will be punished.”

“He’s only young, Geralt.” Observed Ciri as she looked at him, “He’s so cute, just look at his ears.”

They all looked, Geralt admitted the kid was cute with his long ebony black hair and his pointed fox ears. The blue markings that brushed over his cheeks and brow finished off the adorable but alien caste to his face. His little claws were tightly wrapped around a handful of Takara's hair, which he had snuggled into.

“Equivalent of a six year old human child, but the mental understanding that fluctuates between a ten year old and a sixteen year old. Kitsune children are very intelligent, highly curious and keen observers. And as much as I enjoy this conversation, I would ask if we could retire to the room you would have us use. It's not just Haru who is tired, I am as well, a claiming is a powerful and exhausting event.”

Emhyr nodded, and looked at his daughter, “Ciri dearest, would you mind escorting Takara to the blue suite in the Imperial Wing and tell Mererid I’ve ordered that the suite be set aside as the personal suite of Takara and - Haru when they are in Nilfgaard.”

“Not at all Papa,” she stepped over to Emhyr and kissed his cheek and then did the same to Geralt.

“Takara?”

“Thank you child.” She bowed her head to Emhyr who returned the gesture, and then turned to follow Ciri, as she did, three of her tails moved and gently touched the hands of the three men.

Geralt murmured, “She really does like you.”

“Yeah, never seen her get close to those who aren’t witchers, hell she went out of her way to avoid Merigold entirely when she was there, bloody well succeeded too,” rasped Eskel, “And I got a message from the others for you wolf.”

“Yeah?”

“Be a stranger you poncy prick and we’ll beat you black and blue.”

Geralt grinned, “They can try. Since I’m not allowed to bodyguard I’ll take that challenge.”

“Beloved while I am more than happy for you to see your colleagues I am going to object quite strenuously if you come back black and blue,” murmured Emhyr his voice intently serious.

Geralt sighed, how’d he known that was going to be the order, he looked at Eskel and raised an eyebrow in consternation, Eskel grinned unrepentantly and Geralt knew he’d deliberately said the message in front of Emhyr to get that exact reaction.

He was going to have to take the ribbing from the others and not get into a knock em flat fight, if he did he didn’t need to be a soothsayer to know what his future held.  

“Prick,” he growled at Eskel, Eskel smirked.

“Welcome to Nilfgaard's Capital Wolf,” he said with such a sly tone that Geralt wanted to deck him one. Or at the very least get back at him somehow.

“And it begins,” murmured Emhyr dryly, “You two can’t help yourselves can you?” He held up a hand when Geralt went to defend himself, “It was a rhetorical question Geralt.” He looked at Geralt fondly, “Eskel, Geralt and I have a banquet to attend tonight, come and pick him up after breakfast and you can show him the training grounds at the headquarters for the first division. I’ll arrange for the tour another day Geralt.”

“Will do your Imperial Majesty,” said Eskel who then bowed and with a finger wave at Geralt trotted off in the other direction.

“Another banquet, tonight?”

“Yes.”

“Do I have to sniff everything before I partake?” He teased.

Emhyr all but growled, “If anything passes the mages again, I’ll have their heads on a silver platter as a feature piece at the next function.” 

Geralt gave Emhyr a look, that voice held such an autocratic vehemence that it didn’t take a genius to realise that Emhyr was serious, he would do just that.

Well he was the man who had an appellation that meant he danced on the barrows of his foes, or whatever translation it came to, he chose not to say anything.

They both started walking back, Emhyr took him another way pointing out various artworks and portraits, features in the stone work, they reached the Imperial wing and before they walked up the staircase to the fourth floor where Emhyr's extensive quarters lay, he took Geralt down a large corridor, pausing outside the door.

“This is the blue suite, in case you need Takara.”

Geralt felt the smile come on, he knew it was a little cheeky, “I’ll be sure to tell Eskel, we’ll come and annoy her as often as we can.”

“I heard that.” Came the muffled voice behind the door.

Geralt chuckled and Emhyr shook his head, they both jumped when the door was suddenly pulled back and Takara stood in the doorway, wearing a casual kimono, not the hanfu that she would wear at more formal times.

She had two tunics draped over one arm.

“It's a good thing you both haven’t put on weight,” she said as she handed one to each of the two men, “I also have one for Eskel which I’ll give him when I see him next,” a cry came from the bedroom and without a goodbye the door was shut in their faces and in but a few seconds the cry’s stopped.

Geralt looked at the tunic, the colour was black with silver, the wolf with two crossed swords behind it a subtle feature embroidered through the cloth. The design was unusual, it's length to his knees wasn’t unusual but it had what she had told him was a mandarin collar, with three silver ropes toggled at the neck. There was also a length of silver cord that was supposed to wrap around his waist several times and sit at his side. He had seen it before so knew how she would wear it.

Emhyr was holding his up at the same time, looking at the gold sun threaded on black and he smiled, the outline of the mountains of Kaer Morhen. 

She was in her own way declaring Emhyr as a friend of her pack.   

“I’ll show you when you decide to wear it.”

Emhyr nodded and then draped it carefully over one arm, “Come beloved, it's nearing 5 bells and the banquet is at six bells. I ordered an early banquet tonight.”

“Is it a banquet every night?”

“Thank the Great Sun no, it's just because I’ve returned, I’m needed to be seen again, the next month at least will be busy.”

“No rest for the wicked,” Geralt teased, “I know just how wicked you can be.” He purred in Emhyr's ear as they walked towards what he thought would be the stairs.

It wasn’t, he couldn't figure out the square wooden room was, it was tiny like a box with a gold tasseled rope cord.

Emhyr smiled, “This is a luxury that makes being the Emperor all worth while,” he sounded pleased and then pulled the cord once.

A few seconds later the box jerked a little and Geralt had the unpleasant experience of feeling like he was moving.

“Is this room moving?”

“Hmm hmm, one bell for up, 2 bells for down, it only travels between my floor and the ground floor, Ciri and I are the only ones authorised to use it, I’ll add you to that list.”

“Huh,” well that's ingenious, he thought as the box came to a stop and Emhyr slid the door to the side and stepped out. Ciri was walking down the corridor and stopped when she heard them step out, she turned back and waited while they walked towards her.

“I asked Takara if she would like to attend tonight’s banquet, she declined which I expected her to do, she also declined the breakfast invite saying that she needs a little more alone time with Haru. And she gave me a dress.” She held up the swath of black fabric over her arm, then grinned, “She gave you clothes as well.”

“Armour through clothes,” Replied Geralt cheerfully, “I can’t wait to see what she made for you.”

“I’ll wear it when she comes to a banquet. I was saying to Papa before that the next few days and weeks are going to be interesting.”

“Hnnn, I’m certainly looking forward to seeing the kitsune amoung the nobles.” Said Emhyr with a chuckle.

“I’m sure she’ll shake them up and keep them on their toes.” Replied Geralt easily, then offered his foster daughter his arm, she took it with that half smile of hers that he loved so dearly.

Emhyr took the dress from Ciri’s arm, draped it over his own and then linked his own arm with hers, she laughed to have them both at her side and as they walked to the Empresses quarters they chatted about the startling events of the day. They saw her off at her door, each planting a kiss on her brow.

“A girl could get used to this attention from her father's,” she teased and took her dress, to get ready for the banquet.

Emhyr and Geralt walked to the large double doors at the end of the hall, it was still a sight to behold for Geralt, there was so much magic in this wing he had had to turn his new mutations off as he was almost blinded by the gold shimmer and spells everywhere. He knew they were all for protection, and he wasn’t complaining, it was just that there were so many spells, wards and shields congregated into one area he was having to slowly get himself used to it. And his medallion was still humming a bit, not as much as yesterday though.

He loved the art that hung on the walls, many of them old maps that showed the progress of the Empire's march through the continent. There was also the most incredibly made armour and weapons on display that he was almost salivating over, Gods he loved a well made blade and these were several classes above the usual. He was going to take a few hours to try everyone of them out, if any went missing he’d blame someone else. There was also the usual pennants and the ever present brigade members who came to immediate attention when Emhyr walked past, no chairs and chaises in between though, there usually was.

As they got to the double doors to Emhyr's quarters the men stationed there jumped to attention and opened them.

Emhyr swept in followed by Geralt who said thanks to the guards stationed there. He knew he didn’t have to, but Takara had taught the boys that politeness didn’t cost you anything and often gave much back, but she had also taught them to raise hell if they had to and meet rudeness with rudeness if necessary. In recent times, that had been necessary.

Emhyr sighed and relaxed when he walked into the gallery that ran down the length of his quarters, he was certain it was the continuation of the corridor that had been made exclusively the Emperors.

He didn’t have time to look at it, hadn’t really had the time at all as Emhyr pressed on to the bathroom, the bath last night had been a revelation, a massage followed by a wash followed by another different type of massage followed by a hot soak then a cool dip. He could get used to that.

But this bath wasn’t for recreation, it was more a dip, scrub then get out, and the bath attendants were in there with you helping you scrub.

At least they weren’t naked he supposed.

 It still unnerved him, although he had learnt his lesson about telling them no, they didn’t listen and if he told them he could scrub his own balls, well Emhyr got creative when he’d done that.

He was out in less than ten minutes and was hurried in to be dressed, brushed, primed and shaved, they did it all in half and hour with Mererid all but humming in joy.

He’d been finished and propped up with his cane just as Emhyr was being crowned and basically glorified.

“I thought you were allowed to be late.” He imparted as he leaned back against a column watching as Emhyr's jewelry was put on.

“Politics beloved, I can be late if I so choose, today it would not be advised with most of the more important officials coming. Including Morvran’s father Farren Voorhis and his wife Lady Ermina.” Oh joy of joys he was going to be introduced to them, Geralt grimaced, he had heard enough of those two to want to stay clear of them.

“I’ll have you at the high table tonight Geralt, since everyone knows you're my lover now and it would be acceptable for me to have you close, particularly after a poisoning attempt.”

“Who am I with tonight?” Emhyr turned to him and smiled, couldn’t be all bad news if he was smiling.

“I’ve had you sat next to Morvran, who is seated with Cirilla, Next to you will be the High Priest of the Great Sun Lord Carranis, he’s quite the talker, and if I know him well the questions will be about Takara.”

Geralt sighed, Morvran wasn’t a bad sort, but this Carranis was new, “Got it.”

As Emhyr walked over to him, Geralt admired the view, he always admired the view. This one was as stunning as every other.

“Pass muster?” Asked Emhyr.

“And how!” He exclaimed cheerfully.

“I can’t wait for tomorrow,” replied Emhyr with a smile and Geralt wondered why, maybe he was looking forward to finally getting his hands on Creighvon, he had to admit he’d be looking forward to it too if he was Emhyr.

With that the witcher took the Emperor's arm and they both shared a moment in each other’s company, the kiss was loving and gentle, graceful in the love they had for one another. Then Emhyr pulled back with a sigh and they both moved out of the dressing room and off to the banquet where Geralt was sure he was going to be completely bored out of his brain.

 

———

Emhyr woke the moment a gentle hand touched his arm with a whispered “Sire.”

It was Mererid and that meant morning, thank the Sun's rising he thought, “Two hours Mererid,” he murmured knowing that his Chamberlain would be precise and come back in two hours. He waited and heard the door snick closed and then with a sly smirk he tossed back the blankets from both him and Geralt. To which Geralt gave a groan and a hand came out and scrambled to find the missing covers.

Emhyr stopped him by the simple expedience of capturing the hand, pinning it behind Geralt's head then climbing on top of him, Geralt opened his eyes with surprise and Emhyr was staring down into dazed amber eyes.

“Mererid will be back in two hours, we are breakfasting with Elka this morning and that will continue for the next few weeks while all this craziness of my return continues. Ciri will be joining us.”

“Oookay?” Said Geralt his voice conveying confusion and sleepiness.

Emhyr gave him a wickedly delightful smile, he knew that Geralt wasn’t getting it, “It's been two days Geralt,” he murmured and saw the confusion flare to delight and sexual heat.

“Oh,” was all he said.

Emhyr leant down and captured Geralt's lips in a scorching kiss that told his lover just how much he had been holding back for the last two days, he hated enforced celibacy when he didn’t want it.

“I’ve been looking forward to this morning,” he murmured as he pulled Geralt's other hand up to join the one he had pinned. Then with a stern admonishment told Geralt to keep his hands there, he gave into the desire to delicately kiss and nip his way down Geralt's neck, stopping to single out a nipple to which he laved attention upon.

 Listening intently for the sounds of Geralt's passion as it rose, the little moans and sighs delighted Emhyr and he slid his knee between his lovers legs, feeling the hard length against his thigh as he lightly ground against Geralt's cock, just as he bit down on his nipple.

Geralt reacted, he arched his back and groaned loudly, his arms moved a little as if he had gone to pull them down, but he stopped.

That pleased Emhyr to no end, Geralt had been getting better at leaving his hands where they had been put, that deserved a reward, thought Emhyr.

He reached up with both hands took hold of Geralt's and then brought them down to his head, Geralt all but froze as Emyhr took his hands away leaving his lover's there.

Emhyr moved back up and kissed Geralt, he pulled back and looked into glazed eyes full of desire and need, “You can caress my hair beloved, but I warn you if you hold me down or tug at my hair you can be assured of my most creative of reprisals.” 

Geralt panted and nodded his head, Emhyr went back to moving his way down Geralt's chest, he left little love nips as he went, Geralt's skin turning red and then it went white again, pity he thought, they never stayed there for long, a witcher's ability to heal took away those marks within minutes.

Emhyr gripped Geralt's legs and pulled them open and to the side, settling into the natural cradle of his thighs.

He sighed as he did, this he thought, this was one of the most satisfying places to be in the entire wold. With that thought, he gripped Geralt's cock in one hand and after a lick, and a very gentle nip on the sensitive tip, he sunk his mouth down on to Geralt's aching length.

He forgot however that the Impera Brigade who were scattered about his quarters when he slept due to security reasons hadn’t heard Geralt's yell of passion before.

His regular guards were on leave.

In fact it wasn’t something they were used to at all coming from his bedroom, he never had a lover in these rooms before.

It was when Geralt voiced his delight at Emhyr that all hell broke loose.

 

——-

“I am sorry Geralt,” said Emhyr for what seemed the hundredth time.

“Don’t care how sorry you are, I am not getting back in that bed,” growled the witcher from across the room where he was tugging on his pants that had been draped over the chair.

Emhyr had to admit, the last ten minutes had been both mortifying and rather amusing, although he was sure if he gave voice to that amusement he would be sleeping alone for awhile while he grovelled for forgiveness.

He’d never had to grovel before, he didn’t relish the idea of doing it now.

Geralt's face had been flaming red and was now returning to its normal pale cast. It had gotten a little tense as 5 armed guards had burst into his bedroom, weapons raised after Emhyr had done something with his mouth that had resulted in Geralt yelling out loud.  Geralt's response however had been incredible, he’d been up, sword from - he had no idea where from, and was standing on the bed with a witcher sign cast that covered them in a barrier, quen he though it was called. 

Geralt must have realised it was a false alarm just as the guards realised who had made the yell, hint it hadn’t been him.

 They’d gone white, Geralt had let out a low animalistic growl and kicked a large cushion at them, it was an impressive kick and Emhyr hadn’t known a pillow could be thrown that fast and hard. It was in that moment when a gigantic gust of wind threw open his balcony doors and a storm of white and fury had landed in front of the bed to have the cushion smacked in the back of her white head.

The pillow hadn’t made it, she’d torn it to absolute shreds with her claws, the down everywhere.

“OUT,” yelled Emhyr pointing at the guards.

The guards almost fell over themselves to get back out the door but it was suddenly quiet when the door had practically slammed behind them, he was going to have a word with his night captain.

“Takara!” Squawked Geralt as he all but scrambled to find a cushion to cover himself.

“It's not as if I haven't seen it before Geralt.” She’d retorted back, “I’ve seen every witcher naked.”

“The Trial of the Grasses doesn’t count, I was a boy.”

She had rolled her eyes at him, and then had dislodged the feathers that had settled about her in a flurry of white. Blue fire had burst into life and the feathers had still decorated her and the rest of the room turned to ash.

“If there is no issue, I’ll go back to my rooms.”

“Thank you Takara for responding, it was much appreciated.” Emhyr had replied to her as she moved to leave.  

She’d stopped and then smiled at him, her fangs peaking out, “You once told me that your palace was a snake pit of intrigue, conspiracies and dangerous games. If I hear of anything that indicates a threat I’ll let you know, and I’ll be there if you have need of me. Even if it's just ah - a misunderstanding.”

Misunderstanding had been right, thought Emhyr, Geralt was now dressed in his pants and still glowering - sulking more like it.

He should be the one sulking though, his plans were ruined and he spent more time than he really should have devoted to the idea of loving Geralt so completely in his bed, finally.

He swung out of the bed and grabbed his robe, no sense in lying abed if the one he wanted in the bed wasn’t. He heard the small bell toll the half hour and thought about the time before breakfast.

He had an hour and half, bath, massage, or -  he smiled, yes he thought, that would do quite nicely.

“Beloved, follow me, I have something to show you.”

Geralt narrowed his eyes, “Is it that dungeon you kinda referred to yesterday? Cause if it is, I’m not going.”

Emhyr smiled, he was saving that for another day, “No suspicious one, this is for you and you alone.”

He led Geralt into the bathroom, to where a well concealed door was, this door lead to the consorts room. He had thought long and hard about having these rooms assigned to Geralt, in the end he had decided to do it.  

It was another message as had been his removal of the bed. 

In the lounge area he had placed a witchers lab and other items that Geralt owned and along with books that Takara had told him Geralt would often consult in his duties as a witcher, most of the texts had been found. He’d also had a large table, not the best quality, but one that could withstand harsh treatment ordered as Geralt often maintained his own gear. 

He had made sure to add an area before the fire place for Geralt to relax and read or entertain his colleagues.

Emhyr had been pleased the training mats had been placed down and several dummies erected, the walls held sword racks upon sword racks each with high quality and well used swords. He’d read that Geralt had a lot of them, he hadn’t quite realised it was that many.  He had also had Geralt's armour placed on stands, everything from the highest made armour to the armour that hadn’t been.  

When he had taken a few minutes to inspect the room yesterday he’d known then, Geralt was a magpie.

“This is - this is the gear I left in Kovir.” Geralt was puzzled as he looked around and then reached out to touch a chest plate, that was near him.

“Yes, after your dwarf friend Zoltan left Novigrad to collect it, I had given orders to the Governor that on his return your gear would be removed here. I wanted to surprise you, and are you aware of just how rich you are? Your chests held a massive amount of gems and rare collectables, that would sell for a fortune. Although I understand from my head chambermaid that the girls who were tasked with unpacking your gear all had a fit of hysterics when they got to the chests containing your potion ingredients. I believe they’re still unpacked.”

Geralt winced, “Poor things.” 

Emhyr swept his arm out to encompass the room, “It was the bedroom, it's now a room for you to practice in when you need to, I have given the guard orders that Eskel and whoever you tell them to are allowed in these rooms.

“Rooms?” He led Geralt into the living area, the large lounge room that said I am a witcher and proud of it.

Geralt stared at it and was silent as he looked, he then moved in and started to poke things around, seeing what had been done.

“You are of course free to have the rooms as you desire, this was done just to-“

Geralt turned around, the shock in his eyes told Emhyr that Geralt wasn’t used to people doing things for him.

“You did all this? For me?”  Geralt's voice was thick with emotion and Emhyr couldn’t quite get what he was hearing

“Yes, do - do you like it?”

“Lik- Emhyr I love it, you thought about everything a witcher could possibly want or need and you gave me an area for me to be me. I don’t know what to say except thank you.” Geralt was overwhelmed he realised. 

Emhyr smiled, relief in his heart, “I know of one way you could show me how thankful you are.”

Geralt snorted, “You just don’t give up do you?”

Rhetorical question, thought Emhyr as he chuckled, “I am not called the relentless for no reason beloved, but no I am not thinking about you on your knees before me.” Geralt rolled his eyes at him, “I want you to show me what it is that you do, tell the stories that these hold in your heart.” He pointed back into the training room, indicating the swords and armour. He was certain that everything that Geralt had collected had a memory attached and Geralt just grinned.

“I can do that, but first why don’t you get changed?”

Emhyr chuckled, and went to order his attendants to do just that. His heart light, although he hadn’t gotten to do what he had originally planned this was even better.

   

Chapter 5 will be up within the next24hrs 😉.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 5

“Look Geralt,” called Elka excitedly as she bounced in her saddle, he had all but given up on her sitting still on poor Starheart, the little black Palfrey that Emhyr had given her through winter.

The poor horse had a gentle disposition and was completely devoted to Elka so she took the bouncing in stride, Emhyr had made a good choice for the little Princess.

Geralt couldn’t help but think back to the day that Emhyr had introduced Elka to the palfrey from his breeding estate. Elka had been so excited to meet her and had chosen the name Starheart after having her first two vetoed.

The first name she had chosen had been Emhyr, Emhyr hadn’t been flattered and had firmly pointed out that the horse was a mare and need another name, she’d then cheekily said Hedgehog.

Geralt couldn’t help the snort and chuckle at the second name, she was quick witted and had argued that a hedgehog could be male or female so the name had no gender attachment.

It had been a good argument, she’d even pointed out that Geralts horse was called Roach which was a fish, Emhyr had ultimately put his foot down.

So Starheart had been named after a five minute brainstorm from Elka due to the star shaped white mark on her chest, and he had been thoroughly lectured about the importance of naming horses. He had done his best not to listen and Roach however was still Roach. Although he did concede Roach was a terrible name for a stallion.

He held the lead reign and they moved through the city at at decent trot while they followed Eskel. Eskel was following the four man guard that Emhyr had insisted on and they were being followed by four more at the rear. The Pennants of both Nilfgaard and Aedirn held by two flag bearers, he was going to cop it when they got to the 1st division headquarters.

He looked to see where she was enthusiastically pointing and in the break in the large thoroughfare he could see the imposing edifice of the Cathedral of the Great Sun. It was large, very large, and hadn’t been here 80 years ago, he was impressed that something that big and ornate had been built in just 80 odd years.

“You’ll have a tour of it later Elka, we need to not dwardle so hurry along kiddo.” He said as she tried to move towards the teeming square before the cathedral, she sighed, but fell back towards him.

The reason Elka was with him and not at her studies had been a quite stunning display of lip dropping and not a little bit of manipulation. She hadn’t seen either Geralt or Emhyr since the Procession of the City.

She had been put into the wrong wing by the Palace staff who thought her a student of Yennefers and not the Princess of Aedirn. Yennefer has left almost immediately so the princess and her attendants had been placed in the mages wing.

Considering she was supposed to be on the floor with Emhyr, Geralt and Ciri it had been a cluster fuck of epic proportions.  Geralt was pretty damn certain that whoever was responsible would  be reprimanded with all the Imperial anger Emhyr could muster.  He was still pissed about it now.

When that mistake had been rectified after Mererid had found out yesterday, Emhyr and Geralt had been at the banquet. So guilt had also played a part in her getting her way.

She’d used her weapons well.

Emhyr had obviously felt guilty about the whole affair, when she had found out that Geralt was going out of the palace she had begged to go with him. It had tugged at his heart strings and he had promised to take her out another day, soon.

Emhyr had thrown that out with, “If Geralt agrees then I will allow it, I’ll let Yennefer know that your to have a day off today.”

His lover was a bastard, not that he didn’t love the little girl, but know he had the added pleasure of having her keep to his heals while he caught up with the Witchers here in the City.

He’d have to watch his language, and he couldn’t thump the others if they didn’t mind theres.

He was doomed, he thought.

Eskel had given him an incredulous look when he had rocked up and seen the little girl in her training clothes and a sword strapped to her back beside Geralt, Geralt had growled, “Don’t even ask.”

She had gotten really good in the last two years, better than he had anticipated even, she had really knuckled down in her training, so he had said to her, if they were going to be meeting witchers she should dress the part and take in some training with them.

He’d never seen her bolt so fast to get changed.

It took another 15 minutes with Elka oohing and aahing at everything that caught her attention and impressed her to reach their destination.

Geralt could understand, however the only thing that really impressed him was the clean streets and the even cleaner populace. The City was a marvel of architecture and history but it was the pride that really made it shine, people here were proud of their city and their Empire and that pride showed in the way they treated her.

They came to the imposing walls of the Headquarters and we’re admitted into the Training grounds.

Geralt knew that the 1st division was where all the officers were trained in how to command their units in tactics and strategy and in how to look after the men that they led. They underwent a comprehensive training regime for their rank that included both combat training and school room education. They now, thanks to the witchers here had an expansive but modified knowledge on monster hunting. One that was team based, with their knew tactics being up-taken on the field there had been a dramatic drop in deaths attributed to monster hunting.

He also knew that Emhyr had plans for the witchers but he hadn’t told Geralt what they were, he wasn’t ready yet to tell him, and Geralt knowing that Emhyr couldn’t tell him unless he was ready didn’t ask.

As they swung off he moved quickly before Elka tried to jump of Starheart he caught her before she could and helped her down.

“Now young lady, the men you about to meet are rough and tumble, they might swear and curse, threaten and roar but they have good hearts.”

“I know, but I’m looking forward to meeting your friends though.” She gave him her winning smile and Geralt ruffled her hair. He didn’t have the heart to tell her that while he was friendly with a few of them, some he hadn’t met and one he would sooner cross the street then piss on him if he was on fire.

Eskel pointed to a building, looked like a large barracks.

“Thats been home since the winter last year, its now knows as the witchers quarters, has a common room, dining room and a witchers lab. We have access to any of the facilities here and we each get a room to ourselves. Not too shabby for once in our lives, although its nothing compared to living it up in the imperial wing,” his friend teased.

Geralt rolled his eyes and they started out towards the quarters when a big buff man, with a full bushy beard lumbered around the corner, two hulking swords on his back let everyone know he was a witcher. He was heavily scared, his left eye missing as was his left hand and right leg under the knee.

Balik of Kaer Seren, member of the Griffin and for a lumbering cripple could put up a fight like no other. Geralt noticed that his limp from the peg leg was gone and he was actually wearing a boot on his foot an his hook had been replaced with a skeletal golden hand.

“Well if it isn’t the white wolf, finally decided to join us hey.”

“Greetings Balik, your looking better than I’ve ever seen you.” Geralt replied meaning it, he had more muscle then fat now and had put on weight, last time Geralt had seen him he had only just lost the leg and was living in the ruins of Kaer Seren.

Balik gave him a somewhat twisted smile then must have caught sight of Elka, he stepped back his face shadowing, “Sorry didn’t see the kid, I’ll go so I don’t scare her so much.”

He was a gruff man but he had a soft spot when it came to kids, “Please don’t go Master Balik, you’re not scary.” Said Elka and stepped forward with a smile at him, “You must have fought many dangerous monsters to have so many serious injuries. Thank you for keeping us safe.” That’s his kid Geralt thought proudly.

“I’m Varelkar, but you can call me Elka, Geralt does.” She curtsied a little at him.

“Ah, greetings little Elka, I’m Balik of Kaer Seren.” The old witcher said, obviously a little stunned at the girls response to him, after all, Kids ran screaming from scared witchers all the time.

“So you’re a Griffin? I thought you’d be a Bear you’re so big and shaggy,” Elka chirped, “Are they your swords?”

“Yes, I see you have one too, training to be a young witcheress?” Balik knew that wasn’t it but his rumble was a tease that made Elka smile.

“No, just sword training, I am to be the Queen of Aedirn when I grow up and my foster father the Emperor says I need to be able to protect myself, so Geralt is teaching me swords and daggers.” She said so casually that it took Balik a few seconds to process what’s she had said.
Balik was silent then looked at Geralt, the same disbelief that Eskel had had in his eyes but for an entirely different reason.

Geralt shrugged his shoulder, “What? you thought the honour guards was for me?” He groused at Balik.
“Yes actually I did, we’ve heard someone has the white wolf on a short leash and all.” His grin was pure wicked and Geralt, making sure Elka was looking the other way gave him a two fingered Rivian gesture that conveyed what he thought of that.

Balik grinned, “okay you temperamental wolf lets get you inside so you can greet the others.”

As the walked to the building Geralt gestured to the hand, “whats with your golden hand?”

Balik raised it and with an evil little grin the fingers opened and closed, admittedly they were jerky and all the fingers closed and opened at the same time but it left Geralt gaping at it.

Balik rumbled a laugh, “I’d been here near six months training the officers on monsters and their weaknesses and strengths, good steady work, young curious minds. Noticed a young sorcerer in the streets was following me taking notes, when I went to ask him what the fu- what he wanted he said that I was a perfect specimen and he wanted to experiment on me. Almost knocked him out, but the rich young fop’s servant leapt in and said that his master meant no insult but he was part of a new study going on in the university that was developing prosthetics for war veterans with missing limbs, prosthetics that made movement more natural. Got a new leg too, and I’m training with a few of the witchers here to bring me back up to speed. I’ll never fight a fiend again but I should be able to do the lighter monsters.”

“Well,” muttered Geralt his mind blown away from not only the idea but the execution as well.

“If I ever meet the Emperor I’m gonna have to say thanks, he was the one that personally approved the experiment to go ahead, cause I’m not a citizen of the Empire it wouldn’t be for free, one of the officers here made sure it was organised.”

Geralt swallowed a lump, oh Emhyr just wait till I get my hands on you, you can have me anyway you like he thought.
They walked into the building And Geralt and out to the practice yards. He had been hearing the commands in several accents and had guessed that some of the witchers were training Emhyr officers. The two of them waved at him as they saw him and he waved back.

“Alright young princess, how about you show me everything you’ve learned from Geralt so he can catch up with those he knows and those he doesn’t,” rumbled Balik.

“Is that okay Geralt?” She asked as she looked at him almost bouncing from
foot to foot.

Geralt smiled down at her as he replied, “Of course sweetest, mind what Balik tells you, he’s been fighting more years than I and can teach you quite a bit.” She nodded her head eagerly and trotted off after Balik.

“Trust Balik to take the kid under his wing,” murmured Eskel

“He was a trainer at Kaer Seren?”

“Yeah, taught them the ways of the Order before we became more of a profession that a knightly order.”

Geralt remembered now, Balik had always seemed more knightly than most of the Witchers, had a sense of chivalry that was a throw over from when Kaer Seren had been the school that had created Witcher’s that were to be an order.

That fell flat and the schools had been born.

“So the wolf finally decided to slink in when most of the works been done?” Came a sleek unctuous tone that made Geralt grit his teeth and try and temper his response, cause he really wanted to hit Emilé of Tellra, badly.

“Tellra, arrived the other day, guess whose in town too?” He growled back a sharp smile on his lips as he turned to face the oldest of the witchers, Tellra raised one perfect blonde brow. The devilishly handsome asshole still hadn’t received a scar on his perfect face.

Tellra rolled his eyes at him, “Your lover? Why the white flame is scrapping the bottom of the barrel when he can have any he chooses I’d never know?” Tellra tossed his mane back and the implication made Geralts fist curl.

Geralt has never doubted it but in that moment that he knew how much Eskel had his back and loved him as a brother. The other witcher from the school of the Wolf threw a punch the Bear didn’t see coming. Tellra was on the floor shaking his head and holding a hand to the blood pouring from his nose.

“I’d stay clear of the palace Tellra, if Takara catches wind of you she’ll probably grind you into the dirt, again.”

Eskel hissed as he walked over him, Geralt just grinned at Eskel, who grinned back, “you got your orders not to fight anyone because of your hand, ain’t about to let you have to deal with that assholes comment and not have your back.”

Eskel clapped him on the back as he said it and they moved into the common area where he was greeted by the three he did know and one he didn’t, one from the Manticore, Khalid, muscular, dark skin and spoke with an accent.

Haden de Gaul, another bear, Carin and Gaven of the Griffin, he had gotten into a few scraps with Haden over the years but Carin and Gaven played a mean hand at gwent and could drink plenty of witchers under the table.

There was back slapping and handshakes as they greeted each other, it had been many years since he had seen them and as he sat to catch up with them he couldn’t help the light feeling in his chest.

Emhyr had his own reasons for doing this but the outcome was that the last remaining witchers had gathered, their purpose once again to help the populace keep safe from the monster who bumped in the night.

Their path had meandered into unknown territory as they navigated the hatred and horror thrown at them. Thanks to Emhyr their future had changed, he had given the witchers a Path to follow once more. They may be teaching a new way, but ultimately they were helping humanity thrive in a world that wanted their flesh.

Their profession would die with them, there was no escape in that simple truth, but with these first steps here, they had started to carve out a place so that they and their arts wouldn’t be forgotten.

He paused an idea springing to mind, it was Takara he suddenly realised. She had more motives in her actions than he or Eskel had realised: the Library being passed into hands that would guard it with her. A friendship to ensure that she would be here to guard and she had aided Emhyr in gathering the witchers to aid Nilfgaards armies so that the witchers had another way.

Trust the Guardian of Kaer Morhens Library to give them all a chance to show their worth once more.

———

Emhyr sat on a throne in front of a large fresco that showed Nilfgaards military strength, its dedication to the people and its glory under the Imperator. His daughter took another throne beside him, not as co ruler but as the heir under training.

The senators of the Imperial Assembly were gathered and the discussions were long and the debates tedious. He’d had to intervene twice, first a call to order when a fight broke out, along with a ringing chastisement and a second with a veto against measures he had certainly not approved of while away.

He would have to ask Ciri about them and get his blades on the three senate members who were pushing them. If he was right, they had forged the documents for the grain tax to be increased and the water to be taxed.

There was only one outcome to that, protests and anger.

It was a given right that his father had put into place that the people of the empire had cheap grain and free access to water, if that fundamental right was taxed there would be an uproar, the usurper had taken it away but Emhyr had made it one of the first things he had given back to Nilfgaards citizens.
And while that had been a serious enough problem he was thinking hard about what to say and do now.

The discussion had just turned to Takara, there was a host of questions that Senator Harge var Jerrit was asking him.

Although the man hadn’t actually paused for him to answer, but as the last of a long list was read out a small black streak dashed in from the side door that was opened by a servant. The little kit, in full kitsune form skidded to a stop with a full circle spin in front of him.

Haru gave Emhyr a foxy grin, his ears twitching as he did and then leapt into his lap.

He was shocked at the sudden visit and he flicked his eyes up looking for Takara, hoping to the Great Sun she wasn’t there. The senate would blow a collective fire ball if she was here without invitation, thankfully she wasn’t anywhere to be seen.

The Senate was silent, quite surprised at this turn of events.

Emhyr stroked Haru’s fur as he curled up in his lap and huffed out when he relaxed.

Ciri leaned towards the kit, “Does you mother know where you are?” She asked with amusement.

Takara wasn’t the sort to loose track of her kit but the kit under his hand tensed and then shrunk into himself a little.

Yes thought Emhyr, he had slipped his leash.

“There’s no mistaking that body language master Haru, Adventis have a message sent to Lady Takara that her kit is here.” Here being the Senate Assembly which was not in the Imperial complex but in the city itself.

Adventis bowed low and turned to do just that when a large white orb of power, as big as a mans head streaked into the building and morphed into Takara.

She was not impressed.

She pointed a clawed finger right at Haru and said in Nilfgaardian, “I am not pleased Haru Hoseki Hanei Ayakashi I did not give you that amulet for you to work several spells designed to deceive me with my own power. It is for you to be able to change your form at will.”

The kit stood up and shocked Emhyr when he vocalised angrily at her.

Takara raised a white eyebrow at Haru, and said very firmly, “I do not care that you wanted to see him, he has an Empire to run and you will respect that. You are not a fox nor a pet to be coddled, my kit you are a kitsune and it is time for you to learn to be one.”

Emhyr wisely kept silent as the kit squalled back at her, now he sounded plaintive.

Takara sighed, “Take the half form Haru. And you will ask.”

The fox jumped off and Emhyr watched as the Kit turned into a boy, and a naked one at that.

Dead silence abounded in the room punctured by a slight growl from Takara, “You figure out how to cast illusions, scent tails and to mask your scent in the space of three hours yet you don’t figure out how to call in your clothes.” Takara sounded incredulous at her kit, he saw her look to the ceiling.

“Stars that guide and guard Haru,” she said beseechingly Haru just gave her a grin, his tiny nascent fangs peeping at them and his ears perked right up.  Emhyr knew that unrepentant look, Ciri had had it too at age five.

Emhyr saw that Ciri had turned her head and her shoulders were shaking in silent laughter, he too wanted to laugh but didn’t dare, it was the most motherly admonishment he had ever seen her give.

Takara fires leapt into existence and surrounded the kit, when it disappeared Haru was clothed, in an outfit that must have come from her world, he was in long but wide black pants with a white shirt tucked in and a coat that was held parted with a braid of silver cord. The coat was in a beautiful mint green and blue that went well with his black hair and eyes and like all the cloth she wove, the intricate embroidery was painstakingly stitched with delicate precision. She had chosen a scene of the sea, leaping fish and gentle waves and floating fronds over the large wide sleeves.

“Well, you will apologise and then ask.”

“Hai,” chirped the boy, who turned back to Emhyr with a cocky grin, that child was going to keep Takara on her toes, he thought with amusement. “Anno -”

“No, the NIlfgaardian tongue, we spent considerable time going over it.”

Couldn’t have been much time thought Emhyr but then he knew nothing about how Kitsune taught or learned.

Haru sighed and then very carefully, slower than what would be considered normal said “Greetings your Imperial Majesty, I apologise for the disruption and beg for your forgiveness.”

Emhyr blinked and heard the murmurs from the senate gallery, for a child that looked six his words told everyone that his mind was older than that.

“See that it does not happen again young Master Haru, your mother is correct, I have an Empire to rule and you are not a my pet anymore to stay at my side.” He was referring to the months spent travelling where Coal would be at his side or on his lap.

Haru pouted, “Can I see you soon?” He implored.

Emhyr smiled at that, Takara had said the kit had bonded with him, “when your mother says you can and when my duties allow for it, you will see me.”

The kit kept the pout going obviously not happy with the answer, Emhyr took the approach he had with Elka when she was trying to get her way, he raised one eyebrow and stared him down. It worked.

The boy bowed and then turned to his mother, “we can go now.”

Takara gave her kit the same look he had, “Can we now?” She paused to let the boy think, “We can leave after you apologise to the senate for interrupting their session.”

“Yes Hahaue,” the boy said remorseful, Emhyr didn’t believe it for a second and Takara’s slight eye roll to the ceiling told him she didn’t either

After Haru had completed a bow and an apology he reached out a hand with tiny claws to Takara who took it and then bent to pick him up. Her power winked about her as she prepared to leave when Senator var Jerrit stopped her with,

“Before you leave Lady Ayakashi, the senate has a few questions we will ask you.”

She stoped and gave the senator an arch look, “will you now?” She purred, “Correct me if I am mistaken but isn’t that decision made by the Emperor, not the senate. However if his Imperial Majesty has no objections to you interruption of this senate assembly I am agreeable to answering the senates questions. Or you can make time in another assembly.”

Clever woman thought Emhyr with approval, a chastisement for going above the order of the days agenda and she left it in his hands.

He pretended to deliberate and leaned in to whisper to Ciri, “this should be entertaining” he murmured in her ear.

She regally nodded her head in acknowledgment and he turned back and nodded his own.

“We have no objections, the senate may ask their questions to Lady Ayakashi.”

“ I assume this going to be awhile, one moment.”

She pulled her power in and something shimmered in her had, then she was holding an elegantly crafted pitcher painted rather delicately. She smiled at her kit and then set him on his feet, the smile hadn’t been a nice one, it had held a warning.

“If you wish to see the Emperor Haru, you will do so after you complete you punishment for not only running off, but for masking your scent and for creating that impressive illusion to fool me. Since this will take a few hours, and I do not trust you to stay in one place your punishment starts now. If you are not finished by the end of the senates questions you will continue it else where.”

With that she tipped the pitcher and what looked like thousands of tiny gemstones some as fine as a wheat grain and others that ranged in size to a quails egg poured out for good 10 seconds. At her feet was an impressive fortune in gems. Then she pulsed her power and the mess of jewels scattered over the marble floor she pointed at it and gave her kit a stern look.

“You will sort them by colour and size.” Well that was an inspired punishment thought Emhyr, designed not to hurt but to punish.

The kit gaped at her, “But thats boring” he all but wailed.

“Its not meant to be fun kit its meant to be a punishment, there are reapercusions to your actions and you will learn this. And Haru, you will complete it quietly.”

Haru looked cross and crossed his arms over his chest, Ohhh child thought Emhyr, you’re pushing it right now.

“If you don’t start Haru, you won’t finish if don’t finish then you don’t get to see Emhyr.”

Haru sighed and then he sat down and started.

Ciri was chuckling now, “I’m remembering that one,” she said when Takara looked at her.

“Its serves its purpose, and also has the added benefit of improving ones perception and fine motor control.” She then turned to look at the muttering room.

“Now,” she said as she walked to the podium at the side of the assembly where var Jerrit was standing he moved back a bit alarmed, the podium was designed so everyone could see the speaker, it was where the Senate member held his own court when running the Assembly.

Then Takara, true to her nature took control of the senates questions. “You have so thoughtfully supplied a list, shall I start with question one?” She picked up the scroll that var Jerrit had been reading off.

“How long have you known her? How long has she been known to the Witchers? What is her threat assessment? Why is she friendly now and not known before? My my these are not the questions that are burning deep within you all” she sighed and tossed the scroll on the podium, then rubbed her temple. Then she looked up and levelled her inhuman eyes on the senate, some sifted under her scrutiny some tried to hold her gaze. She pursed her lips and then with a smile that bared her fangs purred, “You will have one question each, think wisely before you ask it. I reserve the right to not answer if the question is disrespectful, but if it wasn’t and I refuse to answer I will allow you another chance.”

The senate, almost to a man gapped at her and the control and command she exuded, after a few minutes of stunned silence Emhyr spoke, his voice cold and firm, “Senator var Jerrit you have asked to question Lady Ayakashi, she has agreed, we are here wasting time so ask your question.”

He senator stuttered a bit then spoke firmly, “What are you intentions towards Nilfgaard.”

“My intentions are peaceful and honourable, I mean Nilfgaard no harm.”
Var Jerrit blinked and realised she had answered his question, he nodded and then looked at the senators gathered.

“Senator Gorren?”

The old man who had sat on the senate for more than 40 years stood up, “Lady Ayakashi, thank you for agreeing to these questions, they do allay our fears for what you represent to us.”

“Thank you Senator, please.” She indicate with her hand for him to ask his question.

“You have ruled as an Empress, so coming her must have been a shock, I wish to know how well you ruled.” He sat down again his old bones hurting him.

Takara looked at him, there was a gentleness in her eyes as she did. “I ruled for over 18’000 years, give or take a century and I ruled with a firm hand, much like Emhyr var Emreis. Those who moved against my law and rule were dealt with harshly and without forgiveness, those who attacked my lands were annihilated. My people where mine to guard and guide, to protect them and it was my duty to ensure a peaceful existence for them. I was considered to be the greatest of the rulers of the Southern Lands.”

And so it went on, question after question, to which she answered, some of the answers he knew, some he didn’t and with each answer he got to know and understand her just a little bit more.

They ranged in topic from her and her people to her and the Witchers, the senate asked questions that were designed to get to know her and some designed to trick her, she didn’t fall for it. Some of her answers were heavy, especially as she spoke about the fist century on this world, how she had to kill the 9 attendants who had been pulled through with her, she had explained the bond of Blood and Clan, how the sudden loss of that bond had sent five into a catatonic fading, they had died within days due to that loss. Then how the four others went mad with the desire to recreate their Empire, she had said no, it wasn’t the kitsune way. He had felt pain and sorrow for her when she said she had slain them after they started preying on the elves and dwarves. She explained that her kind didn’t take, they guarded but they had lost their way and their being, when that occurs death and destruction soon follow. Her story continued with the questions about how she had survived on her own, and she had smiled and shook her head, she would not betray a trust was all she replied with.

But had told them how she had met the witcher caste.

She gave them the information they asked about her involvement with the Witcher’s, and he sighed when she finally told him what he had suspected, the witchers were kin, her blood freely given to create the mutation that bound every witcher to her, she had given them the gift of enhance sight and the ability to see clearer and greater details. And while the Witchers were kin, those of the school of the wolf were Clan.
They asked about her magic, she scared them when she replied that she was powerful, her magic alien to this world and a mages power didn’t work on her, she was too strong for it.

Did she mean the empire harm, no as she had said in the first question, but she would aid if asked.

Will she join as a citizen, she had shook her head, she was a Friend to Nilfgaard as Conferred by the Emperor, she would not be ruled by another. Her kind had instincts too deep to allow it. The reason she had become an Empress was not by right of birth but right of might, she hadn’t wanted to be ruled by a tyrant, she had challenged him and killed him.

So he and Ciri sat through the nearly two hours that she stood there and answered Nilfgaards curiosity.

He had noticed other traits of hers as she spoke, she would not give the senator the time of day if he was rude to her.  If the were friendly she replied in the same manner and would often expand on her answers, if they were curt so was she.  It was sad to say not many of his senators figured that out.

To say it had been enlightening would be an understatement.

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 6.

 

 

After the third attempt at locating his lover, Geralt prowled into Emhyrs quarters - their quarters and found Mererid as he directed several of his underlings in their duties as they hustled about the overly large bed room.

“Mererid, finally someone who knows everything,” he called out with relief, his usual tried and true method of asking a servant where the master was had failed him dismally this time.  He had chalked it up to the palace being so bloody big that the servants couldn’t possibly know where Emhyr was at all times, he’d been sent on a wild goose chase by several well intentioned servants. 

There went his tried and true method.

Mererid paused in issuing his orders and looked at Geralt, one eyebrow raised, “If that was compliment sir Geralt we have to work on them,” he said sardonically.

Geralt grinned, “Where is he?”

“In his personal study sir Geralt.”

Geralt saluted a thank you but instead of tracking down Emhyr went into the dressing room and changed into a set of comfortable clothes then trotted off to Emhyrs lair, the large elegantly appointed room with its books and comfy chairs and a desk that - well - was at the perfect height for Emhyr to bend him over and fuck him hard now, that he thought about it.

New plan thought Geralt with a smirk as he saw Emhyr, reports and papers spread out, open books of various topics and he was industriously writing in his planner: push Emhyr into forgetting his work for the next hour. 

It had just rung the half bell after four so he knew he had a few hours until tonight’s evening entertainments.  Decision made Geralt went about executing his desires with an almost mathematical precision.

He started with a saunter.

And walked into the room with a “Found you,” as he undid the top three buttons on his shirt. 

He tried a sexy purr in his voice to go with his sexy walk and was pretty sure it came out as a constipated growl, probably best to work on that he thought with a grimace.

Emhyr pointed the feather tip of his quill at a chair in front of him and didn’t look up, Geralt narrowed his eyes as he walked over the plush rugs and then sat down on the indicated chair trying to do it gracefully. 

He’d tried the sexy stalk, he had tried the sexy purr, and he had sat with as much grace - seductively as he could.  This seduction thing sucked when Emhyr wasn’t paying attention to him.

“How was your day with Elka?” murmured Emhyr absentmindedly as he continued to write. 

He sighed internally, yep it sucked.

“Good” He said instead, “she had a grand time with the witchers, can put a bolt into the dummy thats not the one shes aiming at every damn time but as she said at least she can hit something.” That had been hilarious actually, she had begged the mysterious Khalid if she could try his crossbow so he had patiently pulled it apart and told her what piece was what.  She hadn’t expected the lesson but had quickly become interested in it, when that had been done Khalid had taken her over to the target dummies. Where she had gleefully shot bolt after bolt at the targets and never hit the sse had pointed it too, the Witcher’s had been chuckling while they yelled out advice to her and ribbed the crap out of him. 

Elka had taken it all in stride with a look of determination on her face, looks like Emhyr had a budding archer on his hand.

“Good for her.” Emhyr replied, still with that same tone.  

He wasn’t listening Geralt realised and grinned, now he knew what to do, if in doubt he thought, rile Emhyr up.

“Your little princess has decided that all the witchers are lonely and need to be loved so she is going to turn the witchers into a chivalric order like it once was and give them a keep in Aedirn when shes queen. Balik is going to be her bodyguard because he looks like a bear and can scare away the assassins and I am supposedly going to lead this order. You’re going to be her advisor because by then Ciri will be Empress and you’ll no longer have a job.” She hadn’t but he needed Emhyrs attention, craved it even.

“She’s a good girl,” Emhyr murmured as he kept writing.

Alright Geralt, he thought to himself, that didn’t work time for the trebuchet, “And she wants to marry Emilé of Tellra because he’s really handsome and he would make pretty babies.”

“I’m sure she’ll have a gra-“ Emhyrs quill skewed sideways, got him, thought Geralt. 

“She what?” Growled the Emperor as he gave him a piercing stare, “Geralt you were supposed to watch her, not let her fall in love with a man old enough to be - how old is?”

“No idea but he’s the oldest witcher still alive.”

 “The oldest alive?” Emhyr snarled out and stood up with a violent manoeuvre that sent his chair tumbling backward and stalked around his desk, he started to pace in the center of the room much to Geralts amusement.

“I cannot believe this Geralt, from now on she doesn’t see this Emilé of Tellra at all, she has her future mapped out, as do many young women from the upper ranks of the nobility, who she marries is deter-“ Emhyr stopped and looked at him with narrowed eyes.

Geralt was still sprawled in the chair but had shifted himself so he could watch Emhyr have a melt down over Elka, Geralt gave him a brash and some would say cocky smile.

“You hate Emilé of Tellra,” Emhyr declared

“Yes”

“You wouldn’t let the withcer near her, especially if he’s an idiot who called Takara a - what was the - ah yes, ‘Cavern dwelling whore’, did I get that right?”

“Yes, she pounded him into the dirt, hard and I’d only let him around Elka if we were in company who can smack him quite,” he replied letting his amusement at Emhyrs expense show. With a cocky grin that had Emhyrs attention.

The eyes narrowed a fraction more, “You were teasing me,” he murmured thoughtfully

One more push thought Geralt, “And give the man a prize, thats what you get for not giving me your attention when I not only tried a sexy swagger into the room but asked me questions without listening to me,” he said smugly.

Emhyr took three giant steps towards him gripped him by the shirt front and then gave him a brutal kiss.

Mission accomplished Geralt thought as he was dragged out of his chair, which he went very willingly and pushed up against the desk.

The kiss held a savage quality that Emhyr didn’t often let come out and he pulled back after a sharp bite on Geralts bottom lip that made him shiver and his half half hard cock jerk at the pleasure.

Emhyr looked at him, his dark brown eyes liquid with desire and shining with a heat that held a promise.

He leaned past Geralt and tapped his communication stone, Mererid answered.

“Mererid cancel my meeting with Colonel Tyrconnel and have it rescheduled for tomorrow, somethings just come up.” He paused to hear Mererid confirmation and then pulled back, his firm hand twining into Geralts hair and tugging his head back to expose Geralts throat.  

The only person he would actually do it willingly for but Emhyrs grip always got his libido pumping, Emhyr lent in and nuzzled under his ear then moved down to nibble across his neck. He nipped sharply too and little arrows of heat and sensation heightened Geralts own response to Emhyrs tease with a grunt and a thrust of his hips, his hard cock begged for it.

“You wanted my attention Geralt, you have it, lets hope you don’t regret it.” Emhyr purred as he stepped back, “follow me beloved.”

Finally, thought Geralt with relief and did just that with a bounce in his step and a glide in his stride, he couldn’t help but move between the two as he was looking forward to what was coming.  He had kicked himself a few times that day for not getting back into the bed that morning but he’d been too damn flustered after having five guards barge in on him with Emhyr giving him a grand old time, then Takara was added to the mix. 

Gods if Eskel found out he’d never live it down, but he swore to end the first person who interrupted them right now because he wouldn’t be tossing a cushion at them, it would be an igni.

 

 ———

 

Emhyr had a slight smile on his lips, finally he thought, after the mornings disastrous start he had been not only put out but on edge all day, watching Takara take on his senate had been a highlight of his day but Geralt was what he had wanted and needed.

He admitted to himself that the Progress and the events in the north had given him unprecedented access to his lover and he was now spoiled for it. Geralts injury and his hectic schedule however was putting a dint into his plans but he was going to carve out the next 3 hours and then a have a quick meal before the evenings play and dance started.

He walked past the bed and heard Geralts steps falter but he as headed for the bathing rooms Geralt steps picked up and followed a little quicker.

Oh Geralt he thought as they went into he bathing chamber and he dismissed his servants, he turned to Geralt and started unwinding the sash about his waist, Geralt grinned at him.

“Want a hand?”

Emhyr shook his head but handed the long gold sash to Geralt, “wrap that around your eyes beloved.”

Geralts grin that had never left his face turned wicked, “as you command” he teased.

“Oh but I do,” Emhyr purred as he watched Geralt wind the sash over his eyes, he stepped forward his step heavy with boot on the marble tiles, and gave Geralt a sensual kiss, taking his hand and leading him towards a door that he knew Geralt had not seen.

He heard Geralt chuckle as he pushed the door open, “not the exercise I was hoping for my heart, I’ve got a sword in my pants don’t want to use one on the wall.” Geralt said obviously thinking he was being taken into the consorts rooms as Emhyr lead him into the room and then closed the door.  He couldn’t help the shake of his head at the words though but smiled in satisfaction as he glanced around the large spacious room. 

Perfect.

He pulled off the scarf and had the pleasure of seeing his irreverent lovers beautiful honey amber eyes widen in disbelief.

Geralt immediately about faced to get out of the room but Emhyr was ready for him, he used his own momentum to push Geralt chest first into the door and press up against him, he gripped Geralts wrist that was on the door handle and pinned the other above his head, pushing his knee between Geralts thighs.

Geralt was panting and Emhyr knew it wasn’t from fear, he leaned in thankful for the little extra bit of height he had on his lover and said. “If you truly don’t want to be here then we will leave but the shivering I’m feeling and the heavy panting I’m hearing tells me that you’re not frightened of this but exceedingly aroused. And that beloved is what scares you the most.” 

Geralt groaned into the wood of the door and Emhyr pulled the hand that held the door handle up and anchored both hands with one hand.  He then reached around Geralt and felt the hard length of Geralts cock.  It was harder than he had ever felt it, when it came to Geralts responses he knew his lover better than Geralt knew himself.

Emhyrs room, the ‘dungeon’ as Geralt had called it in jest was’t that at all, it was as well appointed as all his rooms where, comfortable, austere - but had a few pieces of furniture that were designed to heighten sexual play. There was nothing here that would degrade another human being, he wasn’t into cages or stringing people up.

He had a sexual swing, made in colours that would compliment Geralt, he had a wooden X that he could bind him to, and there were several plush chairs scattered about that would facilitate various positions, most with rings to again tie him down. He didn’t have a bed in here, he refused to, when he took Geralt to bed it would be the one that the Emperors of Nilfgaard had used for centuries.

Although the display cabinets along the wall did hold a plethora of items that were designed to enhance the sensual experience to the nth degree, some of them Geralt knew, most he didn’t.

Yet Emhyr had said, he would go no further than what Geralt wanted and if he said no, he was going to toss him in the bath and take him there.

“You’re a devil in disguise aren’t you?” Geralt rasped, his breath still coming in short pants.

Emhyr could help the smile as he let Geralts hands go and stood back, letting Geralt make the first move to turn around.

“I’m your devil Geralt,” murmured Emhyr as Geralt did just that and leant against the door.

He took a deep breath and looked around the room, his eyes were wide and his pupils had blown and Emhyr couldn’t help the swell of arousal when he saw Geralt in the grip of a fierce need that Geralt didn’t know how to manage.

“We’ll start slow Geralt.”

“You’re damn well going to want to start slow. I don’t even know what I’m looking at.”

“Then let me show you” he purred, with that he took his still shivering witcher and showed him through the room, he opened the cabinets one by one and explained what each was for.  

By the time the tour had ended Geralts arousal had deepened even further if that was possible and Emhyrs own had spiked as well.

He put the next step in Geralt’s hands, “where shall we start?”

To say Geralt surprised him would be an understatement, his lover had obviously done some soul searching while he was introducing Geralt to everything in the room.  He had assumed Geralt would point to a chair or even choose a toy, but he pointed directly to the swing.

Emhyr raised an eyebrow at Geralt, “When you decide to face what your fear you really do throw yourself into it don’t you?”

Geralt gave him a husky chuckle, “As Vesemir said, no guts no glory.”

“Well far be it from me to stand in your way, I’d suggest you remove your clothes, I know I am.”

Geralt was out of his shirt and pants quicker than what Emhyr through was polite, he had only just removed his tunic and shirt.

“Go check it out.” 

He instructed and amused himself watching Geralt as he poked, tested its strength and then sat in it, letting it swing with him in it.

“Huh, this is actually fun.”

“It allows for a few positions and a weightless experience.”

Geralt had a glint in his eye and he looked at Emhyr who was know as naked as Geralt was.

“I’m ready.”

There was no denying that thought Emhyr as he looked at the feast before him, “I can tell.”

“Well then come fuck me on it,” 

 Challenge accepted thought Emhyr with a dangerous glint in his eyes, he reached for a bottle on a small table warming it in his hands as he prowled over to Geralt who was still lazily swinging back and forth.

He bent over and gave Geralt a loving kiss, “Thank you beloved” he whispered as he pulled back.

Geralt looked at him puzzled, “What for?”

“For trusting me with this, with your pleasure and your heart.”

Geralt didn’t reply but reached up and carded his hands through Emhyrs hair pulling him back down for another loving kiss.

With that Emhyr bent down further and with no other warning than that continued on doing what had been interrupted that morning.

 

Geralt was hanging onto the velvet encased rope for dear life and let loose another tortured groan, weightless was right he thought shakily as he jerked in response to Emhyr pressing his fingers deep in the core of his heat. 

Fuck - oh fuck, right there he wanted to yell.

His knees spread wider and his muscles burned in response.  Emhyr had him in a position that he had to use his muscles to control the spread of his legs, he was on his stomach, the swings leg restraints would spread too wide if he wasn’t careful.

“Good work Geralt, your doing well,” Emhyrs low cultured voice was deep and husky, its timbre ignited shivers down Geralts spine in a wave that reached his inner core and he couldn’t help the flutter of muscles against Emhyrs fingers.

Geralt just shook his head, he couldn’t say a thing because his bastard of a lover had gaged him.

Although he had been told if it got too much to let an igni sign off so the candle close to him would ignite and let Emhyr know.

Good plan he had thought when Emhyr had told him what to do. Gods he was so tempted too, this was too much.

Emhyr pulled back and Geralt heard him move away, he strained to hear what he was doing because he wasn’t going to last much longer.  

Emhyr however finally stepped between Geralts legs his strong firm grip on his left thigh had just the right pressure, and gave him a sense of being steady in the air. 

Geralt gave a muffled sigh as Emhyr did, but couldn’t help the arch of his upper back  and his eyes widening when what felt like sharp claws glided gently down his spine and over his backside leaving trails of ice and fire over his sensitive skin.  

What the ever loving fuck?

As the feeling came again and he felt the slight prickle of magic as his medallion vibrated, his befuddled mind managed to remember one of the toys that Emhyr had shown him, it had piqued his curiosity, being a monster hunter he knew the touch of claws intimately.  This set of claws was magicked not to cut skin and had three settings that Emhyr had declined to tell him about.  

And it was crafted by a certain evil mage responsible for those fucked up rings.

That mage was fast becoming Geralt most hated person.

Oh fuck, the settings had to do with hot and cold he thought deliriously and moaned as his wicked lover pricked his hands over his hip and came perilously close to his groin. His cock hardened until it was actually starting to ache in a way that was slightly painful.  

If Emhyr didn’t stop doing things like that Geralt knew he was going to cum and cum soon.

His breathing already fast and hard through the gag staggered as he felt Emhyr come close, his cock brushed alone Geralts inner thigh hot, hard and wet.

Oh sweet Melitile he thought yes, thats what he wanted

No his mind howled as it moved away from him and the claw traveled down his ass and just feathered over the area between his sack and his opening.

He tried, he really bloody tried, but that heat lashed icy scrape of metal claws over such sensitive skin sent him over the edge.

He knew he jerked in the ropes and velvet padding holding him up that he was in danger of loosing his balance, but his mind had gone, the white haze of pleasure gripped him and the world went white as pure sensual heat and ecstasy took him fast and hard in waves of heat and ice.

 

Emhyr was immediately aware when Geralt lost control, there was no mistaking that gurgled yell from underneath the silk tie that gagged him.

As Geralt jerked in the swing he gripped his hips anchoring him so he didn’t topple out and stroked his right hand over Geralts cock and thighs.  The hand with a certain claw that had brought Geralt to such a frenzied orgasm, one quite unlike he had ever witness from Geralt before.

It was a treasure to behold but if he had know he was going to elicit a response like this he would have had his beloved face him.  

He sighed as Geralts movements slowed to a stop.

And then he hung there, completely motionless, Emhyr wasn’t too alarmed, he had seen Geralt loose consciousness before when he was recovering from mutation sickness.  This was the first time however that he had managed it while he was at peak form. He was quite proud of this one actually.

He quickly removed the claw and tossed it aside, that he would use again he thought and then removed Geralts gag.

He listened intently as Geralts staggered breathing evened out and he knew Geralt was coming around, when the velvet ropes jerked, he knew Geralt was awake.

His turn he thought, then reached out and slowly started stroking Geralts soft length in time with the throb in his own, Geralt groaned loudly.

“Too much,” he managed to croak, Emhyr knew it wasn’t, he would see to Geralts pleasure once more while he took his own.

“One more time beloved,” he crooned and Geralt whined in response, Emhyr released the leg clasps and told him to roll over. It was not an impossible task but one that was hard in the swing, he had to help Geralt far more than was usual.

He was treated with a dazed and red faced witcher whose glazed amber eyes told him that he had been well and truly taken to the heights of ecstasy. Emhyr smiled and kissed him as he tied Geralts legs back into the leg stirrups.

“Ready to swing to even further heights?” He asked.

Geralt blinked at him, then got the pun and groaned, “Thats worse than mine,” he panted out and Emhyr stepped further into the cradle of Geralts thighs.

With a tight grip on his aching cock, he rubbed it up against Geralts opening, teasing him with it.

Geralts hips jerked and he swung a little, Emhyr steadied him and then looking Geralt in those glazed eyes, he entered him, slowly and savoured the tightness and the heat that always made him beg the Great Sun for strength.

Geralts eyes fluttered to close, Emhyr frowned, no he didn’t want Geralt to close his eyes.

“Look at me witcher, eyes open.” 

Geralt opened them and looked at him, so much desire, so much want Emhyr thought almost giddy by the idea of just how much Geralt wanted and need him.

He pushed in harder and shuddered as he bottomed out, Geralt whimpered.

And Emhyr nearly came. 

Out of all the sounds he could wring out of Geralt, it was that one little whimper when he fully seated with a grinding thrust, and he had hit that point so perfectly that was Emhyrs riskiest move. It was a transcendent sound that often sparked the start of his own release, he was just thankful Geralt didn’t make it often.  He pressed down on the base of his cock so the heat that was swelling up within him would subside and sighed a breath. Then with one hand on Geralts leg he guided Geralt so that he could wrap his legs around Emhyrs waist.  He worked the ropes quickly pulling Geralt into a more seated position and when his beloved realised that, he pulled his wrists out of the wrist stirrups and threw them around Emhyrs shoulders hugging him to him.

Now this was perfection thought Emhyr, he was as close as he could be to Geralt, one arm anchored about Geralts waist the other on his shoulder.

 With Geralt at the perfect height Emhyr pulled his cock almost to the edge of Geralts body and then slammed himself back in. Geralt warbled a cry of delight that drowned out the sound of skin slapping skin and his grip on Emhyr tightened.

And as Geralts fingernails dug into Emhyrs shoulders Emhyr lost what little control he had and he moved.

He was lost to it all, the firm but fierce thrusts had Geralts swinging slightly in the device and it made Emhyr frenzied as he chased Geralts body with his own. Geralt was trying his best to push back but he hadn’t gotten the movements down and the uncoordinated response made the sex raw, primitive and almost brutal in its intensity.

Their eyes still locked together their gazes burning lust and desire and Emhyr took Geralts mouth in a frenzied mesh of tongue and lips, teeth as well as they bit and sucked each other’s bottom lips.

Emhyrs primal response to it all would have shocked him if he capable of normal thought.

And he thrust harder and harder, his hand moved from Geralts shoulder into his silver hair and Emhyr yanked Geralts head back.  

In a red haze of lust he bit down on his beloveds shoulder and Geralt his head held back, cried out his delight at it all especially the change of positions and raked his nails over Emhyrs arms, leaving reddened furrows as he did.

The sex was too much and with a grunt and a deep growl as the pleasure came from far further than ever Emhyr came deep within Geralt dimly aware that Geralt had reached his own once more as waves of dark pleasure and lust tore through Emhyr as violently as the passion they had both just shared.

 

It was a little while before he was able to let go of the ropes that he must have grabbed hold of unconsciously.  Emhyr managed to right himself on very shaky legs as he stood up from the slouch he was in, Geralt was shuddering for breath and he looked at Emhyr, a shocked look in those amber eyes.

“Can we do that again?” his Witcher gasped and Emhyr choked back an incredulous laugh.

Again? He thought wildly, that wasn’t supposed to be like that, but he looked at Geralts hazy but joyous eyes and he sighed, “Another day beloved ,” he managed to gasp. Then started the process of getting Geralt down, it took both of them and they staggered out of the room together arms holding each other up and then almost fell into the large bath. 

The warm water was relaxing and Emhyr moved in the water so that Geralt was in his arms and snugged into a nook, they lay together arms around each other and basked in the afterglow of what was one of the best orgasms of his life, even if it had been the most primal of his life.

 “Melitiles bounty Emhyr.” 

Emhyr gave a wry chuckle at Geralts groan as he shifted and tapped his communication stone, Mererid stepped in and Emhyr just waved a finger in circles still to tired to do much, thankfully Mererid had been with him long enough to know what he meant.

As Emhyr pulled back Geralts head to look at his lover he gently brushed his lips across those pale lips and slicked back the silver strands of hair.

“No rest for the wicked beloved, we have an affair to attend.”

Geralts groan of utter misery had him chuckling again and he moved away towards one of his bath attendants who was getting into the bath to bath him.  

“This sucks Emhyr, you being Emperor sucks, tell Ciri she has to be Empress as soon as possible.”

“Working on it beloved.”  Oh believe me he thought, he was looking forward to retiring and was more than happy to push his Empire into his daughters hands.

 He just had to get her to take it.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

 

 

Geralt was sprawled out negligently on a chaise lounge, leg crossed, head thrown back and arms out stretched as he waited for Emhyrs attendants to finish dressing him. 

It was taking a while.

He tapped a finger impatiently as he shifted his head to watch the proceedings, his body was sore in places that weren’t usually sore even after vigorous sex, that contraption had absolutely blown his mind not to mention his body.  It had wrecked him and after he had been dressed he’d wandered into the rooms that Emhyr had given him, found his potions kit and knocked back part of a Tawny Owl to accelerate his stamina regeneration. 

He had never had to do that before in his life.

When he’d come back Lanfare had been there telling Emhyr not to drink to much of the powder that he was putting into a glass of juice.  The powder smelt like verbena and ribleaf so Geralt assumed it had a bit of a stimulant through it, he’d tried not to smirk, Emhyr must be feeling it he thought with amusement - served his lover right.  

As Lanfare left after taking a quick look at his hand and not re-bandaging it, he bowed to Emhyr and Geralt had picked up his cane pulled it to check the blade and then sheathed it again.

Emhyr knocked his drink back with a grimace and Geralt flopped into the chaise to throw his head back, before long he had moved to watch the two men fold cloth and drape the sash he was wearing, tweak his hair and generally primp the Emperor until he was perfect. 

Geralt was as primped as he would let them and he was looking pretty swish even without the face powder one had tried to dust him with, he’d put that thought out of the mans head quick smart.  Now he was in the tight black leather pants, court boots and the light long sleeve tunic that Takara had made for him, he loved it.

She had very carefully embroidered the mountains of Kaer Morhen in silver over the bottom of it and unless you knew what you were looking at, it just looked like the fabric had been shot with silver.  Above his heart however she had done the same with the emblem of the Wolf, crossed with swords and then to his amusement she had actually done the same with various monsters through the piece of fabric.  

He was wearing a montage to the creatures he killed.

Emhyrs was almost the same design as his, long sleeve with the gold rope belt that Geralt had to show how to wear, but Emhyrs had a button on the shoulder that Geralt had smiled at when he had seen it.  The head witcher when he was a kid had often word a silver sash over the shoulder, the button was there to hold it, when he had explained that Emhyr attendants had flustered around and when they stepped back Geralt saw that they had changed the look of the outfit with the sash and the rope so that Emhyr and Geralt were wearing almost matching outfits but different at the same time.  

“If you look carefully, I am certain that the gold shot through the black has an image, but I can’t quite put my finger on it sire.” Said Mererid with a frown as he bent over to examine the base of the tunic.

Emhyr was examining it as well, “Neither can I, I know its shot with gold but sometimes if I turn just right I can see something.”

“It’s  the mountain valley of Kaer Morhen at the base of the tunic, the golden sun of Nilfgaard in various sizes and I’m pretty’s sure it‘s Takara in her true form over your shoulder.  Everything she embroiders has a meaning.”

Everyone turned to look at him, he shrugged his shoulders, “You thought that the bolts of cloth she gave you were just shot with gold?  She takes great strides to make sure the cloth matches the person, shes as fussy as you when it comes to her clothes.  You may not always see the message because of your eyes, but we witchers do.”

“And what message is she saying here beloved?”

“You’re part of the pack, the Emperor of Nilfgaard and she has your back.” He just grinned and saluted two fingers at Emhyr with his now free hand, “welcome to the pack.”

Emhyr just looked at him, “well,” was all he said and then turned back so Mererid could place the chain of office over his neck and his crown upon his head.

When Emhyr was finally ready Geralt hauled his still heavy but no longer aching body up and walked over to him.

“So whats on tonight, not dinner as we just had to shovel back that like a pair of peasants at a feast.”  

Emhyr winced, “Never use that simile again Geralt, an Emperor doesn’t shovel,” he murmured as he took Geralts arm and they walked out of the dressing room, the servants bowing as they did.

“There is a play in the Imperial Theatre and then an Imperial Ball, the play starts when I arrive and the ball is set to start at 9 bells, refreshments provided.”

“Yeah Elka was pretty damn excited about going to the play.”

“Of course she is as is Lady Anaria according to the report Yennefer sent me.”

“Anaria has settled in very well, her language is better.”

“She has Elka and Yennefer at her everyday to learn.” 

Instead of leading Geralt out the doors and to the halls beyond Emhyr took out onto the inner balcony that surrounded the courtyard and headed past the large windows. The balcony he was keen to note had tiles in the style of the elven palaces he had seen, carved stone work that curled and arched through the building, a seamless blend of elven architecture and human design. 

And every few feet a guard at attention.

They past Ciri’s rooms and then turned the corner, “this way is the quickest way to the family common rooms,” Emhyr murmured as they walked up to a set of open doors and the sound of laughter. Emhyr stepped in and Elka who was spinning about in her royal blue dress in front of Ciri came to a sudden stop, her cheeks flushed and eyes bright.

“Look Emhyr, Geralt my dress is floating.”

Geralt shook his head as Emhyr chuckled, “So it is sweetheart you look very grown up in that dress.”

And she did realised Geralt, his heart clenching at how quickly she was going from girl to teenager.  The dress was one of the dresses from Toussaint and done in shades of blue, silver and pearls, her long curly blond hair styled in ringlets and she had the little crown that Emhyr had had ordered brought out for her in Aedirn on her brow. Then she gave them both a cheeky grin and a very proper northern curtsy.  Emhyr and Geralt both responded with a bow to her and she laughed, coming up to them for a hug.

Ciri stood up and in a dress that screamed I am power and Grace stepped over to them to kiss them both and admire their outfits.

Hers was the dress Takara had given her, black and gold with suns and stars all over it, not threaded through but in full embroidery Lace and the lightest fabric he had ever seen floated over the dress in a robe like overcoat belted at her waist she looked breathtaking and he watched as Emhyr gently tucked back a wayward lock of her hair.

“You look just like your mother,” he murmured to her and Geralt smiled, Emhyr was right, she did look like Pavetta.

“Thank you, I have to say Takara knows how to make a statement with clothing,”

Takara’s dress, oh boy that meant one thing to Geralt,“Takara’s coming?”

“I accepted the invitation.”

Geralt almost jumped a foot and spun to see her in sitting in the corner of the room, one leg crossed over the other, a silver goblet of water negligently held in her clawed hand and Haru in fox form draped around her neck like a fur stole, one of her tails helping to hold him in place.  She was stroking her other hand along the kits head, Haru blinked red eyes at them and then yipped a happy greeting.

 Takara raised an eyebrow at Geralt, “do I have to start you back on basic senses training child?” She admonished him gently.

“Oh hell no,” he replied forcefully with a grimace, “I wasn’t expecting you, I’ll do better.”

“Complacency is a trait you should ensure you do not encourage.”

Geralt nodded, it was a timely reminder and he had needed it.

“Takara, may I say you look stunning tonight,” Emhyr said as she stood up with a boneless grace, her dress moving with a soft susurration of silk as the sea-green and blue fabric fell in soft waves about her, she put the goblet down and glided to them. Geralt took a second to admire her in her hanfu, she was formal, like the throne room, her hair pulled up but she had a set of flowers the same colour as her outfit cascading down the side of her head, tucked before her left ear.  Her belt was wide silver fabric and a coloured purple cord that twisted and knotted in a very precise way sat over the belt, a large ring of jade in the centre.  

She smiled flashing fang as she walked up to them and Emhyr held out his hand to her, she took it and again Geralt wanted to shake his head in exasperation at the Emperor’s ballsy move when he bowed slightly and kissed the back of her hand.

Elka oohhed, placing both her hands together in front of her, “Thats so beautiful.”

“You’re right Elka, its an old fashioned mark of respect for a beautiful woman, men don’t often practice it anymore and I’m put out I didn’t get one.”

Elka grinned up at Ciri, “I am too.”

Emhyr froze and then sighed with a shake of his head, Geralt looked to see Ciri with her arms crossed and tapping a foot at her, Elka took one look at Ciri and copied the stance.

Geralt chuckled, “dug yourself into that one your imperial gracelessness,” he teased. 

“So I did, my humble and abject apologies ladies, I shall endeavour to make it up to you,”

“Oh you and your golden tongue, papa.” Ciri said with a laugh, “But all things aside we really must leave.”

“Yes, Takara will you take my arm? Geralt will follow with Ciri and Elka.”

“It will be my pleasure Emhyr.” Replied the kitsune as she took the Emperors arm, her clawed hand gracefully resting on top of it.

Haru leaned over from her shoulder and nuzzled Emhyr much to Geralts amusement, Emhyr stroked the kits head and ruffled his ears.

“How long did it take for Haru to complete his punishment after you left the senate?  I honestly don’t know what astounded them the most you or that he had mostly finished once they had completed questioning you.” Asked Ciri as they walked the halls to the palace entry.

“10 minutes, then he kept demanding to see Emhyr for another two hours until Emhyr arrived to see him.”

“What happened?” Asked Geralt curiously as they walked towards the stairs.  Ciri laughed and then proceeded to tell Geralt just how Takara had taken the Nilfgaardian Senate down a notch and still was able to give them what they wanted.

“It was brilliant, they had no idea how to treat with her and kept stumbling.” She finished up and even Geralt found it amusing, what he wouldn’t have given to be in that room to listen to her.

Oh well, another day, now they had a play to see.

And if it was anything like the ones Dandelion had dragged him to over the years, he was going to be asleep in 10 minutes flat.

 

———

 

The play, much to Geralts absolute relief was over, the next part of the night however had started, and there was no tapestry to find to hide behind, he’d been searching for the last half hour.

Emhyr was holding a small court of nobles and hanger-ons on the chair - throne - that was set up for him in this massive assembly like room, it could fair fit five hundred easily and was almost there now.  Ciri had her own court with Morvran at her side, he had joined them in the Imperial Box that night and had been a right laugh with his observations about the performance.  Geralts view of the guy had ratcheted up a notch as he watched Ciri laugh at Morvrans jokes.  

The guy had a sense of humour, he had also offered to escort Elka and Anaria back to the palace and then come back to the hall, Emhyr had taken his offer, he had arrived a few moments ago and come straight to Ciri’s side after bowing before the Emperor.

Takara stood near an open window probably planning on staying there because while the Nilfgaardians liked to be clean, they also like to smell good, Emhyr had a scent that he washed with and an oil that he put through his hair that Geralt just wanted to roll in.  

But there were some who didn’t understand moderation.  

And while the witchers could ignore it, Takara preferred fresh air.  

Haru was no where to be seen and he looked about hoping to hell the kit - he saw a black tail peaking out from under Takara’s dress and breathed a sigh of relief, Takara had told them in the carriage that there was absolutely no way she was leaving a Kitsune youngster in a Palace where he could get into mischief.  

Apparently thats what kitsune children did, tricksters and mischief makers the lot of them.  

She had a few of the more intrepid members of the nobility and a few mages around her, engaging with her and talking.

He’d wanted to howl with laughter when he found out what Haru had done in the senate and how Takara had punished him, she had done it to them if they had acted up in their book lessons but it had been nuts and seeds for them.   

Come foul creature of the deep, taste the poisoned silver of the wolven blade.”

Eskel he thought groaning as he heard the words in that rasping voice, he thumped his head back against the marble.

My sword is fast, my strike is lethal, you depart the world this day.

 Geralt pursed his lips - and Fainrael he thought recognising the elegant Nilfgaardian accent, they were quoting the lines for his character in the play.  

“I have to admit Gwenbleidd I never knew you could be so eloquent,” said Fainrael as he stepped around Geralts column that he was currently leant against.  

Dressed in the absolute height of Nilfgaardian fashion his hair pulled back, the Captain of Emhyrs Guard was a handsome devil.  Eskel came around the other side, in a outfit that was a very formal fabric version reminiscent of the wolven armour in black and green, his yellow eyes dancing with mirth.  It looked good on him and he handed Geralt a goblet of wine.

“You were there?”  Geralt growled wanting to punch someone.

“What? Miss the Grand opening night of the most anticipated play Fall of the Flame? We all came, Fainrael invited us to watch it from his families box.  The others had to leave after but they wanted me to assure you that they will treasure the memories of the night. That scene where you saved Yennefer and fought through the Guards and the Veloe Tuvaen then single handedly opened the gates for the Emperors forces was inspired.”

Fuck, Geralt thought in horror, ‘we all came” there were very few people in the City who meant we - the witchers.  

“I mean, it took our breath away, particularly when you declared your loyalty the shining Empire of Nilfgaard,” Eskel tried but failed and he started to laugh.  Eskel shook his head as he leant against Geralts column, if Geralt hadn’t been firmly told by Takara to behave he’d have decked him one.

When he had found out the play was about the fall of the Church he had shrugged his shoulders, it had been okay, boring at times the guy who had played Emhyr had done a so so job, but he had straightened up in horror when a man in black armour, silver wig and two swords on his back had strolled out onto the stage to kneel before Emhyr and offer his life to him.

He had heard Emhyr chuckle softly, Ciri had snickered and Takara had shaken her head.

“I have to say it was rather bold of the company to have Takara in there, especially since she was here, that poor horse though that was dressed up as her was - how does one say - inspired?”

Fainrael sipped his wine as he stood in front of the two witchers, his eyes danced merrily.

“Could have heard a pin drop when the horse came out with nine tails and those over exaggerated ears in our box.” Said Eskel gleefully “we couldn’t cheer and we didn’t want to laugh with your box three levels up a certain guardian up there too.”

Geralt tired not to laugh but he snickered, “Haru was in kit form on Takara’s lap, he purposely changed into a naked little boy pointed at the horse and said, “That doesn’t even look like Hahaue’. I honestly expected the poor creature to burst into flames from the expression on her face.”

The three were silent for about five seconds and then they couldn’t help it they cracked up, and Geralt looked over to the lady in question and saw her looking back at him, one eyebrow raised.

He cleared his throat and straightened up and she looked away, “Emhyr didn’t know what to say and Takara just told her kit to change or put clothes on before she tossed his naked backside into a fountain.  I had to tell her that Haru when he was Coal, liked baths.  Never seen her look so horrified.”

They still chuckled and he knew he was going to regret it when she got hold of him.  

Change of tactics.

“So Fainrael, how are you enjoying your leave?”

“Its been good, Eskel has also been given leave and we are planning a trip up to my fathers estates, we leave in two days and will be back in a week.”

“Looking forward to getting out of the city,” Eskel agreed and smiled at Fainrael, it had been hard on the two of them, often away from each other for months at a time.  Emhyr though had been considerate and would often have Fainrael sent on trivial orders to the capital, informing the captain to take two days leave before coming back.

Now that they were here, Geralt pursed his lips and smirked a thought coming to mind and for once he really didn’t care about the audience, “Fainrael, page 78 in the book, I think Eskel should be introduced to it.”

Eskel’s eyes narrowed, taking on a dangerous glint, the last time had seen Eskel in a position that had taught him a thing or two, it had certainly taught Geralt, “I have no idea whats on 78 and you’re a bastard.”

Fainrael smile was unrepentant as he looked Eskel over, “not quite 78, but my own version I think, we haven't yet tried anything along the lines of that - haven't really had the space too but my rooms in my fathers manor - thank you for the idea Geralt.”

Eskel looked at Fainrael, consternation written all over his face, “space?”

“Anytime Captain,” Geralt knew he was blushing but if he could get Eskel back just a little bit it was so damn worth it.

 

———

 

Emhyr sighed as the last of his clothes was taken off him, he shrugged into his black robe and walked into his bed room to find Geralt reading in bed, a book about a battle fought centuries ago.

The latter part of the evening had gone well, Takara had been a hit with the nobles and even several of the senate members had gone over to her to talk.  She had taken the interest in her in stride and had been as open as she would be around the people who had gathered around her.  He had escorted Ciri on the dance floor to open up the dance he had thoroughly enjoyed the simple court dance with her, her grace and beauty shone through and she had glided about the floor with him.  He’d come up to Geralt and had asked if he wanted to dance, Geralt looked at him as if he grown a second head, looked at he dance floor and then goggled at the couples, there had been a few male couples among them.  Geralt had stammered he didn’t know how to dance Court style and Emhyr had promptly made up his mind to teach him at the earliest possible time.

He enjoyed dancing, there was something to be said out the courtly graces engaged in a form of movement that held all the precision and elegance that could be taken from the human form, to him it was similar to sword fighting.  He had jokingly asked Takara if she would dance with him when she had come up to him at one stage.  

She’s shocked the hell out of him when she had smiled, then agreed.

That particular dance had been one where everyone had left the floor to watch him and the Kitsune Guardian dance.  And if he thought Ciri was graceful while dancing, Takara had been flowing water and the midnight breeze, she had been a perfect harmonious blend of movement and elegance. 

And afterwards, the more brave of the younger nobles had begged her for a dance, she had politely declined, then excused herself and her kit.

He flopped into bed next to Geralt wiggling onto his stomach a light linen sheet pulled up, the night was warm tonight and he had ordered that his windows be pulled back, leaving the entire wall open for the air to breath.  His gauzy black curtains blew back in the breeze and he settled into bed.

Geralt put the book down and rolled over on to his side, he reached out and brushed a lock of his hair aside, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a nonplussed look on Takara before when that horse came out with actor Emhyr on it,”

Emhyr snorted, “I am demanding an immediate formal apology to be written to Takara about that.”

Geralt chuckled at Emhyrs words, “My favourite line was you standing up there sword raised and bellowing Onward soldiers of the Empire, onward to the fall of fire.”

Emhyr snorted, “I’m still trying to figure out when I got you on bended knee to swear your life to me.”

“Do I need to be on bended knee,” murmured Geralt, “I would go though fire and brimstone for you, ice and thundering water. I would scale the moon, and fall to the bottomless depths if you asked it of me Emhyr.”

The words took Emhyrs breath away, he leant up on one arm and cupped his lovers cheek, “Everything I have Geralt, is yours as well, I can only offer me and all that I am.”

“Its all I ever want.” They kissed, a gentle touch of lips, their love ever growing in spite of the trials they faced. 

In truth they had grown stronger together.

A soft voice sweeter and more beautiful than anything Emhyr had ever heard before drifted gently on the breeze, he paused and pulled back listening.

The words, no the language was unfamiliar, the voice however.

“That’s Takara.” Said Geralt, puzzled, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard her sing.”

Emhyr looked over to the window to where the song was coming from and a soft blue light came up from the courtyard below.

He didn’t think, he got out of bed and pulled on his robe, Geralt had the same idea and they walked out onto the balcony peering into the garden below them.

There Takara lay within the branches of the old apple tree, the small stream below it, her black haired child asleep in her arms, she sang to him a song filled with love and joy, with tears and laughter, his little hand grasped her hair and her fire danced about them.

It was so achingly sad and yet hopeful, he realised as he watched the scene, they were lost in a world that Emhyr knew would never be their true home, but here they had found each other, a light in the chaos that was this world and a love born from it. 

At least they had this, Geralt and he watched for a few minutes both caught up in the beauty of the moment, then they turned to go back to bed once more, sleep called them.

And like Haru, they fell asleep together, in the arms of the one who loved them.

 

 

Chapter Text

This chapter refers to the events in chapter 4 of Ard Faeinn - On Progress, the Never have I ever chapter, not necessary to read before but might make a little more sense if you do.

And again no beta... pesky mistakes are my own.

Chapter 8

 

4 weeks later.

 

Emhyr sat back in his chair in his main office, his attention completely on his daughter as she and several of her aids stood before him, their report: the assassination attempt on his life when he had first arrived back in Nilfgaard.

He had the file open before him, it was thick and comprehensive as was everything that his daughter worked on for him.  Geralt who had for the few days been stationed behind him in his usual position as lurking gargoyle had come up to stand beside him.

Ciri had done her job, she had rooted out the how and why of the attempt, she had also found the who.  

The attempt had been orchestrated by disaffected mages who had been unhappy with his policy’s regarding mages and their duty to the Empire, yes he kept them on a short leash - some would say very short leash but when they had the power to decimate armies and could be weaponised to do so that leash needed to be short.

Besides in the last 20 years the Imperial Magic Academy had flourished as had magic and its uses. As long as the mages worked for the betterment of the Empire under the laws that governed them they were left largely alone, although they were watched.

The assassin had been hired from the same brotherhood that Ciri had destroyed almost two years ago after the attempt on his life in Nilfgaard.  She thought she had gotten them all, one however had managed to escape her wrath.  

The assassin had been caught by the spells that permeated the Imperial complex, designed to stop or hinder an attack on anyone within the walls, the assassin had been rendered unconscious and had been found quickly. Those spells however had been subtly worked on to stop the bolt from being slowed down or misdirected, thanks to Geralts quick actions he was alive.

The assassin had talked, they always did when magic was involved.

When Ciri finished her report she didn’t look happy, in fact she looked like she had more to say and didn’t want to say it.

Her aids pointed out pertinent facts to him and he took note of the reports from Yennefer who Ciri had asked to look at the wards and from his Senior Court mage Gerantieth.

As they finished he watched Ciri for a few seconds and made a decision, “Cirilla, I believe it time to start discussing your intentions towards the throne.” She blinked at him and shook her head, about to say something to him when he held up a hand and cut her off, “Leave us,” he ordered.

Within minutes the three of them were alone in the large room.

“What aren't you saying?” He said softly to her.

She shook her head at him and then sighed, “I’m missing something, something’s not right but my investigators all say that everything is done. Case closed.”

 She thrust her hand into the back of her hair and tugged at her bun, then started to pace, “Its wrapped up, all leads covered, but the mage Tavis, the one in your envoy that day, he came from a good family, loyal to the empire.  He was the one who put the wards down around you early, he hung himself, two other mages from the court died by taking themselves out when they were going to be questioned, their correspondence is what marked them as traitors.  Yennefer said that the work on the palace spells and wards are constantly updated and powered, to mess with them was subtle and a level of craft that those three didn’t have. It would have taken years to do, the books found in their rooms could have helped them achieve it, but -“ she spread her hands indicating a question she didn’t have, “Gerantieth informed me that the three together had the power to change the wards and spells in the complex. That the ones who monitor those spells had grown complacent, they have been dismissed by the way.  All plausible.”

“You think theres more too it?”

“I don’t have proof, just -“ she sighed and shook her head and stopped pacing. “It’s nothing, I’m just being paranoid.”

“What did Vesemir say about instincts?”  Geralt said to her gently as he came around and griped her shoulders.

She looked at him, “Listen to them, they’re often true.”

“You said it, things are tied up nicely, maybe a bit too nicely.” Geralt continued, validating her feelings in this, Emhyr approved and more importantly he concurred with her instincts, he had seen her proven right when others more experience thought her wrong.

He looked at his daughter “Ciri, your instincts have been honed by years of traveling the planes, you’ve seen dangers beyond our understanding and have been hunted because of your power and blood. Don’t dismiss them.”

She nodded her head decisively, “You’re right Geralt, Papa.”

“Well then, we act quietly and we investigate the same.  Small team, and we work closely” said Emhyr, “You’ve sensed a danger Ciri, we act according.”

“What’s your plan,” asked Geralt as he sat his hip on the edge of Emhyrs desk watching him, Ciri walked up to the other side of his desk and virtually did the same thing, he realised who she got it from.

Emhyr tapped his communication stone and got Adventis, “Adventis, send Captain ard’Enthiel in immediately and then send for Master Witcher Eskel at the 1st division headquarters, I want him here as soon as possible.  I do not want to be disturbed for the next two hours.”

“Yes sire, I’ll have your next two meeting moved to tomorrow.”

Emhyr silenced the room and activated every privacy ward and spell in the room.  No one was going to be able to listen in on this.

“We’re playing a game, and you need to give me a time Ciri.  When are you taking the throne?”

“I’m not read-“ 

Emhyr held up his hand, “like I said, a game.”

“Oh,” her eyes narrowed, “12 months.”

“Then its time to start the process of transferring some of my most trusted staff to you.”  He saw it when she got it.

“Ard’Enthiel and Eskel are going to investigate?”

“Yes and I am going to start transferring Elka’s education to those who are more capable in their chosen fields, Yennefer will become your mage advisor.”

Ciri gave a satisfied smile, “I think I see it,”

“I don’t,” muttered Geralt.

Ciri looked at him and gave him a wry smile, “If its mages they want Papa gone so I can rule, and ultimately they have a plan to have power over me.  The trade corporations have been largely silent over the last two years and the senate is the senate, a nest of vipers that strike at an opportunity.”

“By announcing Lady Yennefer as Ciri’s mage advisor and with ard’Enthiel as the captain of her guard people will see that I am starting to transfer power to her.” Emhyr said with a gesture of his hand, he moved a little in his seat as he did.  Geralts thoughtful expression indicating that he was understanding.

“They won’t be looking for me to be investigating.” Ciri said, “they’ll be looking for me to start consolidating power to rule. As Papa said, its a game.”

“And your sure the Trade Corporations aren't involved, they were last time and -“

“It was largely an opportunity for them to get father off the throne and try to manipulate an Empress who was in shock and grieving.  I came down hard on the two Trade groups responsible and seized their assets and executed everyone of the groups Directors, not just the ones responsible.  I sent a powerful message and at the Convention last week, I sent another powerful message when I denied the groups access to the new trade corridor being built through Velen.” Emhyr remembered reading the report a while back, he had been a little shocked at how she had handled it. By giving responsibility to the entire managing leaders of the groups and not just the owner or director his daughter had come down harshly the entire affair had given his daughter a rather firm reputation.  

Geralt narrowed his eyes, “So thats why you tossed me under a carriage? Are you aware of what your father pu-“

“Geralt thats hardly anything our daughter needs to know.” Growled Emhyr at him, she certainly did not need to know how he spent the week with Geralt, it had been a week of pure lascivious delight but that was between them.

Ciri shrugged her shoulder, unrepentant for her actions, “You enjoyed it, besides I’ve always wanted to play never have I ever and you left me out of it and seriously seeing you two cavorting buck naked through the water gardens is something I never want to see again. I can’t even look at them without remembering it.”

Emhyr winced, in a way he was glad he didn’t remember much of it after the drinking game had ended, although he had flashes of the night in question.

A knock on the door interrupted them and Emhyr called enter, ard’Enthiel stepped in and closed the door behind him.  When he approached Emhyr waved him to the desk.

“Captain, its time I told Ciri and Geralt your true purpose by my side.”

Fainrael didn’t object he bowed low at Emhyr and Emhyr continued, “Fainrael is my personal assassin. When I need someone killed for reasons of state, ard’Enthiel takes care of it, the only stipulation he gave me was no children or women who were innocent.”

Ciri’s jaw dropped and she looked at Fainrael with consternation, “you hid that well captain.”

Fainrael smiled, “Thank you princess,” he murmured and bowed towards her, Ciri shook her head at him.

“You don’t look surprised Geralt,” murmured Emhyr as he stood up from his chair, stretching out his back and walking a little away from his desk, he needed to move he realised.  He didn’t know what Geralt would think of him having an assassin at his beck and call, and that assassins being one who was closely linked to them now, but he found he was - nervous about Geralt knowing.

Geralt shrugged his shoulders, “Took me a while but Eskel and I figured out Fainrael was a trained assassin, “ he looked at Fainrael, “you’re very good but you move to fluidly for a ridged military man and theres other subtle signs that we clued into. Besides its not unlike a ruler to employ assassins, and you started the last war by destabilising the north.”

Emhyr looked over at Geralt who still sat catty corner on his desk relaxed as could be.  Maybe he was making a nekkers nest out of an anthill.

“I haven’t told Eskel,” Fainrael said with a bit of shame.

“You don’t need to, witchers are trained observers, they see things many don’t.” Said Ciri lightly.

“I need you to help Cirilla in an ivenstigation”

Fainrael nodded his head and Emhyr brought him up to speed, he knew his captain and could see by the set of his shoulders and the slight tightening of his mouth that Fainrael agreed with Ciri.

“I see, its a dangerous game but I believe one we will manage well, I’ll take Eskel after this and talk to him, he sees Ciri somewhat as a little niece so I’m sure he’ll be onboard.  I can certainly use his keen senses to investigate.”

“If your hunting mage conspiracies get Yen to make an eye of nehaleni, Eskel will be aware if there are illusions about you and it will dissolve them.”

Fainrael’s eyebrow rose, “Well, thats handy.”

With Geralts observation they four of them went through Cirilla’s report, noting coincidences and several small inconsistencies that were the reason why Ciri’s instincts were telling her something was off. 

When Eskel arrived, Emhyr knowing he had little time before his aids started questioning why he had ensconced himself and a few others away.  It was kept short and the only thing Eskel was asked was if he would consider being Cirilla’s personal bodyguard like Geralt was his.  He was told Fainrael would inform him of the reasons why.

Eskel looked a bit askance at it all but after Geralts assurance that it was important he nodded his head and said he would consider it.

With that, the first steps made in hunting down a conspiracy Emhyr dismissed them all and told Cirilla to attend her meetings with the instruction to let all her aids know she had given her father a time frame of a year.

As she walked out Geralt hopped off the table and went to take his position but bent down to whispered in Emhyrs ear as he took his seat.

“You’re going to make her keep that twelve months aren’t you?”  Geralt sounded hopeful, Emhyr just gave a sly satisfied smile. 

“I finally got her to give me a time, you damn well better believe that I am going to ensure she keeps it.”

———

Geralt had to admit, he was bored out of his brain, bodyguard duty was mostly waiting around for an attack, but Emhyr was so well guarded that an attack only got through rarely.  He heard the bell toll 3 bells and sighed, Emhyr usually finished the day at four bells when he was in the main study where all the Empires decisions were really made the place Geralt had dubbed the beehive.  

After the excitement with Ciri and the start of a rather interesting investigation he had once again been relegated to standing behind Emhyr, he hadn’t even had the luxury of gazing at that firm ass as it had been fairly planted in a chair for the last two hours.

He side looked at the chair that he had been sat in on several occasions in the last few weeks and wondered if being a bodyguard for an Emperor was all it was cracked up to be.  He had yet to be taken on the desk, or chair or even the throne and Emhyr was the busiest bee of the lot in this beehive.  

Geralt eyerolled and then settled drown, not long to go now he thought.

The reports had dwindled down and Emhyr was on the last two, but as Adventis came up to Emhyrs side Geralt wanted to strangle the half elf, he had another one.

“My apologies Sire, but with the Division of Public Works needs the Emperors signature for next months Munera, all in order except for a decision on section six.”

Emhyr picked up the folder immediately, flicked through it, crossed off one section and then signed it, he then paused and swore, “tomorrow’s Munera, which families are hosting it?”

“Voorhis, var Attre and var Arriblé, you had declined the invitation citing affairs of state, Princess Cirilla is attending though.”

“Yes, that was then this is now, with the Princess having decided on a time for her coronation then I need to attend, it would slight the families.” Emhyr handed the folder back to Adventis, who took it and tucked it under one arm.

“I’ll inform the committee that you’ll be attending, which event shall I inform them sir Geralt will partake in?”

Geralts ears pricked, what of the what now?

Emhyr was silent for a few seconds then Geralt saw him move, obviously rubbing his face.

“Geralt won’t be involved.”

“But sire, thats -“

“Adventis, that will be all.”

Adventis bowed but Geralt saw the worried look he shot Emhyr and then the look he gave Geralt, the look was telling him to do something.

He didn’t hesitate, Adventis wouldn’t be trying to tell him something if it wasn’t important, he stepped forward to come up to the desk and said “What won’t I be involved in?”

“It is of no matter Geralt,” Emhyr looked at him unperturbed.

“Do we need that conversation again? The one where you make decisions for me without consulting me?”  That conversation had been fun, he thought sarcastically he didn’t want to have it again.  

It was the only other time they’d had an argument.

Emhyr stopped and turned his chair around to see him, “You don’t like showing off your skills in a public tournament, you certainly wouldn’t like a crowd of twenty thousand to fifty thousand gawking at you.”

Geralt paused and swallowed, that - was a little daunting, “Yes but your not telling me why me not participating is a bad idea.”

“Geralt it’s fine.” Emhyr tried to assure him, Geralt wasn’t fooled.

“Emhyr,” Geralt growled, exasperated, he had a feeling Emhyr was trying to protect him for some reason, “I can smell Adventis’ anxiety and I can smell your concern, whats going on.”

Emhyr was silent then he sighed, “It is customary for the personal bodyguards of the upper families to participate in a Munera if their Patrons are attending,”

“And if I don’t,” gods he thought it was like pulling hens teeth to get the information out of Emhyr.

“Its considered to be poor form and if the Emperor who now has a bodyguard doesn’t allow it then he’s seen as scared that he’ll be targeted,” it wasn’t Emhyr who answered but Adventis, who blurted it out clutching the folder he held to his chest.

Fuck, thought Geralt, Emhyr would be seen as weak.

“I can wether is Geralt.” Emhyr said shaking his head, “I don’t want you to compromise your principles for me.”

“No you really can’t afford it especially not now,” Geralt said and then gave his love a wry smile, protective bastard, “what events are there Adventis?”

“All the armed combat matches your skill sir, but maybe the Witcher’s Exhibition Event would be the most appropriate.”

Geralt looked at him with a puzzled frown, Adventis gave him a small smile, “The witchers here were offered a huge sum of money to participate last year in an event, several of them accepted and they’ve been wildly popular events since.  I believe there are seen witchers tomorrow as the families have brought in a total of seventeen various monster for the match.

Ahhhh double fuck, “Yeah put me down for that one and see if it’s permissible for me to have a list of the creatures were fighting.”

Adventis nodded and then with a bow to Emhyr dashed away to his desk.

“I’m not compromising my principles to help you keep face Emhyr, we’re a team.”

Emhyr held out his hand and Geralt took it, watching as Emhyr relaxed a little then to his shock and in front of every aid in the massive room Emhyr raised Geralts hand to his lips and kissed the inner aspect of Geralts wrist.

There was a pause from the people who were half watching the proceedings and then after Emhyr flicked them a look the industriousness of bees.

With that Emhyr went back to the report he was on and Geralt was left to wonder what the fuck he was going to do tomorrow.

The number fifty thousand was still ringing through his head and he really wasn’t happy to be fighting monsters for sport.

But if this is what was needed he would do it with a snarl in his voice and a silver blade sharpened to perfection.

He’d need to ready his gear, his mind turned to what armour he should wear, he should wear his oldest and cheapest he thought savagely, send a message to everyone that he wasn’t impressed.  No he thought, that wouldn’t work, it would probably reflect back on Emhyr.

Then he gave a savage grin, he’d dye the viper black and go in like an avenging tide.

Yeah he could do that he thought perking up.

As he thought about how to handle tomorrow Emhyr finished what he was doing and stood up, he was ready to leave.

Thank the gods above and any below, Geralt stepped behind him and followed while all the aids bowed low, but Geralt his hearing sharp heard the whispers, the talk about Ciri finally ready to take the reigns, that had sure spread fast, and about Geralts fight tomorrow.

Gossiping buzzards he thought as he stepped out the doors and together, they walked the halls until they got to the large imperial gardens where Takara was often found.

She was there in the centre of the garden under the afternoon sun and playing with Haru who had taken his kitsune form.  She was chasing him with little balls of power and after watching for a few minutes Geralt realised not only was she playing with him, she was training him on manoeuvres.  There was always a small crowd watching her but this time she had a few people with her and she was chatting with them as she put Haru through his paces.

Suddenly the kit raised his nose scented the air and then took of in their direction, Geralt didn’t need an oracle to tell him Haru had scented Emhyr, the kit in any of his two forms was positively enamoured with the Emperor.

Geralt silently counted down, three, two, one... and then where there was a kitsune fox there was a naked little boy with a tail and fox ears running as fast as he could, which was faster than Geralt, towards them.  

That was followed by an Takara’s heated voice, “HARU must you continue this, clothing isn’t optional.”

“True to form there isn’t he?” Murmured Emhyr as the kit jumped three hedges in one go and landed on hands and feet before him.

The kit stood up, gave Emhyr an unrepentant grin and then frowned while he called his clothing in, “Sorry Hahaue,” he called back but Takara obviously wasn’t appeased, the power that had been chasing Haru joined together and came at him faster, the kits eyes went wide and he yelped.  He did the only thing he could, he ran his tail tucked between his legs as he darted in and around the columns and bushes.

Geralt couldn’t help the silent chuckle, the kit had a huge aversion to clothes and Takara had a hell of a time getting him in them. If he changed form he was often naked, the entire palace often had a collective chuckle when they heard Takara’s strident voice call out for the kit to put his damn clothes on. He had also torn up the kitchen gardens five days ago, then apologised by bringing the chefs all the bunnies he could catch in the Public Parks, they had eaten rabbit for two days - Geralt didn’t know that many rabbits could be found in a city.

Takara had explained that the kit was using her magic through the amulet around his neck and due to her strength she had trouble limiting his access, Haru was able to pull of a vanishing act like no one else. 

She had kept him in one form as a punishment, which was the half form and taken off the amulet, but he had been just as curious and playful in that form than his other.  

And damn he could run.  

It had been amusing to watch Takara take on the roll of mother, and the little boy who kept her on her toes.  The court was loving it apparently and truth be told, Geralt had heard stories of nobles helping the kit when Takara was looking for him.  His delight in the world around him and in managing to outwit his mother was infectious.

What Geralt and Emhyr knew however was that Takara was never outwitted, but she had facilitated the idea of Haru and the nobles being able to mislead her for reasons of her own.

All in all Emhyr and Geralt were finding the kits shenanigans amusing and the courts reaction to it all rather enlightening.

Emhyr strolled over to Takara and her small little court Geralt coming up besides him as he did, “Lady Takara.” Said Emhyr with a slight bow of his head, Takara smiled at Emhyr and bowed her head to him.

“Your Imperial Majesty, how goes your day?”

“Mostly over but for one or two incidences that need my attention, bring Haru over this evening after five bells and he can stay with Elka and I for an hour.”

 “I would certainly appreciate the hour alone, hello Geralt”

“Takara, are those your balls that shock?”

“I see you remember them,” she said with a sly smile.

Geralt winced, oh yeah he and Eskel remember those balls with all the fondness they could muster, which wasn’t any, they didn’t hurt but they were unpleasant.  “Excuse me,” he turned just as the boy darted past full pelt, “keep running Haru.”

Haru gave a kind of snarling whine as he did and kept on moving, up the tree through the bushes then must have figured out that they couldn’t pass through water so decided to hide in the water fountain.

“Are they electrified Lady Ayakashi?” Asked one of the four people with her, a young mage by his robes.

“To a degree, the shock isn’t hard but its a little unpleasant, at least the adult witchers believed it was painful at any rate.”

Geralt frowned parsing what she had said thinking back to the days when they trained and Vesemir cursing and shaking his hand every time he tested the balls before releasing them.  They were more irritating than painful - he looked at her, “did you deceive the trainers into thinking it was more painful than it was?”

She widened her eyes and looked completely innocent, “would I do such a thing?” She asked mildly. 

He gaped at her and then started laughing, she smiled secretively at him then raised one clawed finger to her lips.

“I’d like to invite you to the Munera tomorrow Lady Takara.”

Her interest sharpened as she looked at Emhyr, “Oh?”

“Several of the noble families are hosting it and with Ciri’s declaration It would be unseemly if I don’t attend, it would be my pleasure to have you and Haru there.”

“I would certainly be interested in attending, thank you for the invitation.”

“I’ll have the event details sent to you.” She nodded, and then bowed her head, Emhyr did the same as the nobles bowed low and then walked away, Geralt followed already chomping at the bit, damnit, tomorrow was going to suck more now.  

“Did you have to invite her?” He all but whined himself.

Emhyr snorted, “Of course, she needs to be seen by more than just the nobles, the common people are buzzing about her as well.”

Geralt groaned, “shes going to critique everything, it’ll be like the exams before the trials.

“Well then I for one am going to enjoy her knowledge and expertise.”

Geralt sighed and as they walked back towards the imperial wing he saw Emhyr glance about then without a by your leave he yanked Geralt behind a tapestry and pushed him up against the marble wall.

Geralt ooffed at the surprise manoeuvre, that was a first he thought.

Emhyr kissed him, it held a mix of desperation and love, Geralt returned it but he kept the kiss gentle even though Emhyr wanted more, Emhyr pulled back and pressed his forehead against Geralts own.

“I didn’t want you to do it,” he whispered to Geralt.

“I know, but its necessary for your rule, if you’re seen as scared you’re seen as weak and thats a death sentence.”

Emhyr sighed and nodded his head, “thank you beloved,” was all he said as he stayed there.

Geralt held him, not caring that they were inches away from possible discovery.  The rumours would have a field day but this was a moment that Emhyr needed now.

And he gave it to him.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 Chapter 9

 

 

Geralt sat with five other of the witchers who had agreed to participate in this - affair.  He’d wanted to curse the moon when he had seen Tellra in the chamber along with Tarik and Haden of the Bear, Peitrev of the Viper and Varen of White Orchard, a Griffin, all scattered about the large chamber and in various states of mediation or working on their weapons kit.

Other than a growl at Tellra and a greetings to the others Geralt hadn’t said anything, he hated doing this. Varen stood up and came over to the bench where Geralt was currently oiling his blade, the first set of monsters included Nekkers, drowners and edrega warriors would be set on the Witcher’s at the Emperors approval.  He’d been staggered at the amount of monsters that were listed for this event and what had been caught for the entertainment of the masses.  And he swore to Emhyr the next time he had to take part in one of these things he was not joining the witchers again.  

Varen sniffed and nodded his head approvingly, “I thought you were oiling up for whatever was coming, now I see your just maintaining your blade.  They switch to different creatures between the sets, we usually oil up then and take a decoction fit for the circumstances.”

“Whatever made you take part in this Varen?” Geralt asked curious.

“Coin, what else, they’re paying us five thousand florens per event.”

“Thats a decent amount of coin even divided up amongst 6 Witcher’s.”

“Each.”

Geralt was silent as he took in the staggering amount, then he wondered, as Emhyrs bodyguard was he getting paid to do this or was it pro bono? Because he bloody well better be getting paid.

“Thats a lot of coin.”

“Why’d you decide to participate?”

“Because he has too, or the Emperor would loose face isn’t that right white wolf,” snickered Tellra, “It certainly wouldn’t be for all the free well bred women who want bragging right about fucking a witcher. You don’t do women.”

Geralt sat back against the wall and unhinged a leg he had been sitting on letting it fall to the ground, “Not anymore, too fussy and well they certainly can’t compete with the man in my bed.” He agreed with a savage grin at Emilé of Tellra. 

The others chuckled at him just as the door was opened by the guard and Eskel was shown in, fully armed and armoured in the same grandmaster wolven armour that Geralt had finally chosen to wear, his two swords strapped to his back.  He was frowning and when he saw Geralt his eyes narrowed.

“I’m blaming you Wolf, this is all your fault,” Eskel growled as he stormed up to Geralt still sitting down, he loomed over him and then poked Geralt in the chest. “11 months I’ve politely declined the invitation to fight in these events and I get told late last night that I have to participate in this with out so much as a please.  Your fault.”

“Can’t blame me, no one twisted your arm to become Ciri’s bodyguard.”

“You weren’t on the end of the green puppy eyes and bottom lip drop,” Eskel hissed, “and I’m blaming Yen for teaching her that.”

“Nah that was her Grandmother, Yen taught her the eyebrow and slight smirk.”

“And another witcher falls to a var Emreis’ charms, whats she offered you of all people Eskel?”

The room turned deadly silent as the two Wolves blinked at each other their eyes narrowing and then as one turned their heads to look at Emilé of Tellra.  

Geralt stood, rotating his shoulders as he did.

The others quickly went to diffuse the situation, Haden punching Tellra in the chest and forcing him to sit from where he had been standing.

“Fuck Tellra, I’m not having our asses kicked by those two minutes from this fight.  Pull your fucking head in and get with it.  They’re not the enemy and neither is their Lady.”

“You promised Emilé the last time you pissed of the the wolves and Takara kicked your ass so hard you had nine broken bones and several damaged organs, you fucking promised,” hissed Tarik.

“Shut him up or next time we won’t’ stop.” Snarled Eskel. 

Tarik nodded, and sighed, “Sorry Eskel.” Eskel just shook his head at the apology, letting Tarik know that he wasn’t to apologise for another’s behaviour.  

Peitrev just sat there and stared at the scene, “so much violence towards each other, save it for the field.  I for one am excited to see this Takara, the word is shes here at the Emperors invite.”

The door opened and a fat man in black and gold with a long red cloak stepped in, his black and red hat festooned with gold feathers.

“Gentlemen you’re up.  Good luck and fight well - the creatures chosen for todays event are some that have never been used in a Munera before so we are counting on you to give a good show of them.”

Geralt and Eskel couldn’t help the slight growls, but the others just grabbed their gear and strapped it on as they headed out.

Geralt grabbed his blade and shoved it back into its sheath, his fingers traveling over the black cloth and leather of his armour making sure that all its buckles and joins were done up.  Eskel was doing the same to his own red and black gear.  The two of them brought up the rear and as they ascended the ramp towards what sounded like a hundred thousand voices they raised their fists and bumped each other’s. 

“Luck wolf.” Eskel yelled as they walked into the light of day.

“Luck Eskel.” He yelled back as his eyes adjusted to the glare.

The cheering mass of humanity screamed their approval as the seven of them walked into the ring and towards its centre.  Black and gold streamers in the air, the sound an incredible wave as the many colours that made up the crowd moved as the people jumped and hollered.

Oh fuck thought Geralt, he scanned the crowds and found the Imperial Stand, you couldn’t miss it. 

Black and gold awning over a large spacious area, Emhyr front and centre with Ciri to his right with the Voorhis family arranged with beside her the var Attre and var Ariblé families to his right.  He saw Takara, dressed in red and white sitting behind Emhyr with other nobles and mages of the Court and Emhyrs guards, Captain Groer leading them.  He had a surprise when he saw Balik siting with Takara their heads together as they spoke and Elka leaned on the chest high marble balcony excitedly waving to him, Haru beside her obviously standing on a box copying her.

He waved back at the two children, and the voices soared.

“Varen, why’s Balik up there?”

“The nobles pay him to tell them whats going on.”

Geralt blinked, wouldn’t that be obvious? They were fighting.

“When the Emperor drops the cloth square, they release the beasts.”  Eskel said as they assembled.  Geralt looked around the field and saw that it had been seeded with areas for them to take cover and use in their work.  

Everything to make the show entertaining.  

With that Emhyr stood up and walked down several steps to stand before the cheering crowed. He ruffled both Elka and Haru heads as he stood beside them and the crowds grew silent.

“The empire has placed great hopes in the Witcher Caste to aid us in our fight against the monsters of this world. To see you in action is a lesson in why you are so gifted in your duties and why you are so effective. May you seven fight with all the knowledge you possess and good luck to you this day”. Emhyrs voice carried over the crowed, deep and powerful and if Geralt was honest with himself, seeing him up there with the full force of the people who cheered for him he felt a stirring that really should be for another time.

He told his body to calm down and he settled into a state of complete concentration, the sound fell away and the scents in the air sharpened.

Emhyrs eyes fixed on his own and Geralt watched as the cloth the Emperor held up was dropped and it floated in the air.

The people screamed in false panic as the ground pits opened up and nekkers, drowners and endrega warriors swarmed up and into the grounds.

As one the witchers drew their silver blades and moved with liquid grace to do what they did best.

Kill monsters.

———

Emhyr kept his cold and impersonal demeanour firmly in place as the last of the Eryina were slain by Geralt and Eskel, the crowds cheered wildly and Farren Voorhis look as pleased as one could possibly be.  Flying monsters were new to a Munera and Emhyr assumed costly to not only trap and transport but also hire the mages to create and hold the shield over the amphitheater so that no one in the crowds could be hurt.

Emhyr clapped along with everyone else, the first three sets had been an incredible show of strength and some serious knowledge in fighting. 

The witchers skills were worth every single Floren he had spent on them in the last two years.

It had been most interesting to listen to as well, the spells engaged in allowing the spectators to hear what was being said on the ground had volumised the witchers jeers at the creatures they were killing, orders of mine and clashes amongst a few of them together.  He’d almost laughed along with the crowd when Geralt had given aid to one who was beset with the harpies. He had taunted the yellowed hair pretty one ‘you need to be quicker and watch that harpys claws, she seemed to like those shiny eyes of yours Tellra. Be careful that she doesn’t scar up that pretty little face, all the young men you service would be devastated’

Balik and Takara had both chuckled, “I wonder what Tellra said to get Geralt to call him a man whore.” Balik had said to Takara.

“Knowing Emilé it wouldn’t have been nice,” was her reply.

The fight had gone on and a good two dozen flying hybrids had been let loose into the ring for the witchers to showcase their skill.  Some of the witchers had suffered cuts and ones armour was damaged.  

He watched as the witchers were given a five minute breather before the next set, Geralt and Eskel both aiding the witcher whose armour needed fixing.

He accepted the chilled wine offered to him and turned to ask Ciri something, he took immediate note of the the look of consternation and disappointment on her face.  

“Something the matter my dear,” he asked her.

“It’s disappointing, I would have thought to see them in action would have been exciting but they’re not even trying.”

He frowned at that, he had thought it had been an incredible feat of talent.

“I agree.”  Said Takara with dissatisfaction and Balik rumbled his assessment. 

It left every noble confused.

“But the skill involved to even slay some of them-“ spluttered Farren Voorhis indignantly.

“They’re too experienced for the level of creatures they’re all fighting, you have given them young monsters, it means that the seven of them are dropping into complacency and not even trying.”  Takara growled it gently, “I wish they would take it more seriously.”

Ciri turned around in her chair and Emhyr saw a gleam in her eyes that made Emhyr turn back as well.

Takara sat one leg crossed, her white silk pants draped over her legs hugging every line, the red overdress fell in dripping waves of floating glory, but her clawed finger taped impatiently on the arm of her chair. It must have been tapping for a while because the wood was pitted and marked by her claws.

She looked at Ciri and raised an eyebrow in question.

“Its such a pity that theres no being here of a level that could teach them the error of their ways,” his daughter said ever so sweetly.

Emhyr sucked in a breath at the very idea of it, ohhhh he thought excited.

The Bear smiled secretively and the nobles invited to attend the Munera in his stand started muttering their own excite meant, a few even started pleading.

Takara looked at Ciri completely nonplussed, “Thats as subtle as a sledge hammer in the face Cirilla,” she said to her.

“I’m just saying,” Ciri murmured and then turned back in her seat.

Everyone did the same still whispering and Emhyr trying not to think of the possibilities turned back as the clock counted down the time to the next set.  

“The supply crates scattered through the grounds all have chalk bombs in them,” observed Balik conversationally.

The tapping from behind him stopped abruptly as Takara said to Balik, “and why do the supply crates have bombs designed for use against me when practicing Balik?”

Balik chuckled, “because I know you and I’ve been watching these fights, I know whose grown complacent and I know they all need a swift kick up the ass to bring them back to reality.  When I heard you were attending I knew you wouldn’t like what you were seeing.”

“Thats sneaky,” she groused.

“You’ve always said Takara that when you engage a creature be it sentient, intelligent or just a feral beast always fight with all you are to give it the respect it deserves, for it ultimately dies by your hand or your complacency will kill you.”

She was silent after that but Emhyr thought the words rather profound, and he understood Geralts stance about these types of fights just a little more.

“I did just give Geralt a talking too about complacency,” said Takara musingly.

Emhyr couldn’t help it, he spoke up, “It maybe the lesson didn’t sink in Lady Takara.” Emhyr said, “Thats a dangerous trait for my bodyguard to exhibit wouldn’t you agree?.”

“I do, but I don’t have a sword.”

“You can have mine,” offered Balik pointing to where his blades where.

“Or daggers.”

Voices chimed in with offers for their as the nobles shifted in their seats getting excited again.

She sighed of exasperation but it sounded fake to Emhyr, “looks like its time for a lesson.”

“Enjoy yourself Lady Takara,” murmured Emhyr as the bell rang for the witchers to ready themselves.

She took the proffered blades five of her tails holding them and he realised she was going to be utilising more limbs than before.  Well well he thought, that would keep the witchers on their toes.

She then took hold of Baliks sword removing it from its sheath,  Emhyr watched her as she very carefully inspected the finely wrought blade, “Balik” she crooned, “you want me to work seven Witcher’s over with a weapon forged by a long dead elven grandmaster.  One whose work is so rare on his side of the world as to be utterly priceless.”

Balik smiled, “found it in a set of ruins Takara, done me well for two centuries.”

Emhyr looked at the blade, curious about a blade that well wrought that it looked brand new.

She tapped it with her claw and even he could hear the blade sing its song, “thank you old friend.  I’ll endeavour to return it to you in one piece, if it comes back in pieces, I’ll have his son craft you a new one.  Haru you will stay here and you will not help me.” She waited for her kit to nod his head and even Emhyr winced at the tone of finality in her voice, if the kit disobeyed that tone then the was going to punished in a way he wouldn’t like. “Please continue with the fourth set, I’ll take the field when they finish it.”

Then left the stand.

And Emhyr trying hard to hide a smile at the turn of events settled in to watch the next set, excitement pumping through him, the fight he had seen with Takara and the two witchers back in Novigrad had been the most intense and incredible fights he had seen.  

He knew this one was going to be different.

 

————

 

Geralt jumped back as the ard that Eskel had hit the wyvern with took it to the ground and they both moved in, blades slicing through the air in a silver dance, the creature screamed and thrashed itself as both its wings were sliced though, dismembering them from its back. Geralt let Eskel flow up the left side of it and take its head in one move that had the crowds roaring for more.

Vultures, he thought savagely, not thinking highly of Nilfgaard now that he had a taste for its lust for blood and sport.

Three of the four wyverns were down the other one almost dead but there was the adult slyzard that the monster hunters had managed to catch still flying above them all, the thing had hampered the damn fight a Peitrev had to quit the feels form a nasty burn.

Fucking idiots, he’d thought when he had seen that it wasn’t a forktail but a thrice cursed slyzard.

They’d all sworn at that fuck up.

The MC, the same fat cocksucker that had introduced them all, had loudly proclaimed the four wyverns and a forktail had been caught for the witcher to prove their skills against the Draconids.

When they had been released, Geralts voice had torn through the amphitheater with so much contempt that it could be felt, “Thats not a fucking forktail you ploughing rugmuffin.  Its a fucking slyzard. Mages strengthen your shields, that thing wields fire.”

He had been thankful the mages had listened and done just that, the first blast against the shields had rippled them and would have brought them down if they had been at the strength for the last set.

Eskel and Geralt ducked and threw up a Quen each as they heard the whoosh of the slyzard above them and the crackle of its fire just as it opened up its mouth to blast them as it flew over.

The flames roared around him as the sign did its job and protected him from the flames that would have at least scorched him.

They both ran for cover as it passed, jumping flames as the went, the cries of the fourth and final wyvern told him that the witchers from the bear had brought it down, they were joined by Varen as they dove for cover. 

The three of them took a few deep breaths to centre themselves again.

“Alright now those pests are down, we go for the main problem.” The Griffin said.

Geralt gave a rough chuckle, “whats the price?” He joked.

“Apparently five thousand florens, but its not going to be a nice word to our illustrious contractors after this. I didn’t sign up for a slyzard, I would have chosen different armour and taken a different decoction.”

Geralt agreed, what use was a forktail brew against that red scaled monstrosity.

“All right gentle witchers, on three?”

Eskel gave a mad grin, “Three” he called and they jumped out swords at the ready, focusing on the thing as it banked back its claws raking over the shields as it did.

It caught the sight of them and screeched its fury, then like all beasts in pain and fear attacked them.

The mages shield suddenly imploded shattering into a thousand fragments of power that winked out of sight and what looked like a blue fire ball smashed into the slyzard taking it to the ground.

The three of them came to skidding halt as the crowd grew quite at the suddenness of what had just occurred.  

And in the centre of the flaming fury white and red swirled around Takara as she used her claws to take the things head off.

“What fucking dice did the grave hag just roll?” squawked Tarik from the left as all six of the remaining witchers just gaped at her.

“We kind of had it Takara” called out Eskel.

“That was my kill, you clawed freakish bitch.” Tellra screeched in anger at her, throwing down his blade in a conniption fit.

Takara still standing on the back of the slyzard’s headless corpse one clawed finger driven through the creatures eye as she negligently held the heavy head, cocked her head And just smiled a tight, savage little smile. 

One that Geralt and Eskel knew quite well.

“Awww fuck,” they both said at the same time.

“Gentlemen,” her melodic voice rang out through the Ard Faein Amphitheater for any and all to hear, “you have 30 seconds to arm yourselves with the chalk bombs in the supply crates, your next target is me.”

Yeah winced Geralt, thats what he thought she was going to say.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

 

Geralt and Eskel looked at each other, they knew she meant it, thirty seconds was thirty seconds - they bolted for the nearest crate. Varen steps behind. Geralt skidded over the sand as he reached the damaged wooden box but kept his balance, he threw the lid off and started tossing out silver swords, bandoliers and belts already set with potions and bombs.

Dimeritium: she’d laugh at him.

Northern Wind: Nope, after the wild hunt freezing her he wasn’t risking that one.

Samum: Yeah - he liked living.

Grapeshot: Oh hell no, she’d tear him a new one.

Chalk!

There were seven bandoliers with the bombs and several potions for stamina and vitality, he narrowed his eyes at it, someone’s planned for Takara to be here.

He growled, he was going to have a word with that someone when he found out who it was, and if it was Emhyr, Geralt was going to sleep on the lounge.

“Stop growling and give over,” snapped Eskel as he reached for a bandolier, Geralt handed him and Varen one. 

“20 seconds gentleman” Takara’s voice had deepened a little, she was getting excited.

Of course she was, she was going to kick their asses.

“How do we take her down?” asked Varen urgently as they swapped over their belts and bandolier.  Geralt paused so did Eskel and looked at Varen.

“You don’t,” said Eskel.

“Seriously, don’t hold out on me, I’ve only met her twice, never had the pleasure of fighting her.”

“We’re not, keep on your toes, just go for her, she likes initiative but she’s too much for only the six of us”

“And even with a lot of us,” muttered Geralt.

They were strapped in and Geralt took a few seconds to look his blade over, he’d swap it if he found a hint of damage, thankfully Emhyrs blacksmiths were some of the best.

“10 seconds Emilé and if your planning on using those bombs instead of the chalk ones you won’t like the results.”

“You splattered over the sand, what not to like”

The three of them turned to see Emilé in the same spot arms crossed over his chest and his sword now in front of him, the others had dashed to get their weapons changed but Tellra hadn’t, he was staring at Takara.  

Focused on her.

Takara, still holding the head of the Slyzard slowly blinked at Emilé of Tellra, a predators blink Geralt realised. 

A blue glow surrounded her and the corpse of the creature she had killed, she dropped its head and then she leapt off, it was a high leap and she landed close to Emilé, but everyones attention was on the corpse, it was liquifying, there was a wave of mutteres from the crowd. 

Within three seconds it was nothing more than a puddle of putrid smelling goo.

Right thought Geralt, stay away from the puddle.

“Careful Emilé,” she purred at him her eyes narrowed with a warning to them, a tight smile to her lips.

Emilé just sneered at her, Geralt sighed, he sometimes wondered if he had death wish the way he kept baiting her but while Takara would respond by literally kicking his ass until parts of him broke, she had never killed him.

Yet he thought, he could live in hope.

They were ready he realised and straightened up.

“Time,” she called and a blue ring of fire opened up in a large circle, “You know the rules, any who fall out the ring are no longer allowed to fight, last within the ring wins.”

“Stop fucking yipping already and lets do this,” Emilé snapped and pulled off a bomb from his waist.

“I’m warning you Emile, if you can’t play nicely than you shall not play at all”. Her voice was deadly cold and in the silence of the stadium it made all that heard it shiver.

“Make me bitch, you wolven tailed piece of ass.”

Geralt saw Takara’s eyes flare with light and with a flick of her wrist a thin stream of blue light shot out from her middle and index fingers, she cracked her hand like she was actually using it as a whip.

“Thats new” said Eskel, as the whip flicked around and then down, Emilé pulled his sword out to catch the tail of the whip like you could to disarm a whip user but even Geralt could see that wasn’t going to work, it didn’t.

Her flame melted Emilés blade and then smacked him in the chest with enough force to throw him backwards.  The witchers winced, she’s cracked something thought Geralt, possibly his sternum, as he watched Emilé learn to fly.

Straight into one of the damaged cages the Wyvens had been transported in, as the whip came back it seemed to grab the battered door and shut it melting the frame so Emile was effectively caged.

Geralt couldn’t help the belly laugh, it was fucking brilliant. He quickly brought himself back under control at the look she shot.

Emilé was stunned, lying where he landed and obviously learning how to breath again for a few minutes while the remaining five of them tried not to laugh, they weren’t all successful.  Takara walked the distance to the cage and looked inside.

Emilé got to his feet slowly, “You bitch,” he gasped.

“You really must learn something new to insult me with.  Bitch is getting redundant.”

“Go plough a cave troll you whore,” growled the caged witcher as he gripped the bars right near her and tried to shove the door open.  It didn’t budge.

“A little more original, now are you going to play nice?” 

What came from Emilé next was certainly creative, something about how she could use her tails to - Geralt was never going to repeat that one. Ever.

Eskel whistled his surprise at it and the fact that Takara hadn’t torn Emilé’s throat out for it.

“I’ll take that as a no,” she turned and walked away but a wave of her hand behind her, shoved the entire cage backwards, with enough force that its momentum carried it out the field she had placed.  It smashed into the stone walls of the amphitheater with a resounding boom.

She reached the centre of the circle, and took the sword from her tail, spinning it with her hand.

“Balik” she called, the Griffin stood up, “since Emilé is effectively in what could be considered the naughty corner theres only five, I’ll take a handicap,” Geralt could see the grin as Balik held up a sheath and Takara threw the blade at him like it was a spear.

The yells and cries of those who saw the throw were loud in the silence.  But stopped when the blade with amazing precision took the sheath, Balik carrying the move so that he didn’t loose control spun a bit and then with a grace that belied the fact he was missing a leg, bowed to the Emperor.

The place erupted into cheers, but the witchers took their swords out as Takara lengthened her claws and crouched down low, one hand on the sand, her tails dancing, swaying gently, little silver flickers of light as the sun glinted off metal.

“Watch her tails, she’s armed them.” Geralt yelled to the three others who were with them, Takara levelled her eyes on him and then she wasn’t there.

Oh fuck why the hell did he make a target of himself, he threw up a quen just as she struck, the shield shattered and he barely blocked the back of her claws as she struck out at him, once, twice, three times in very quick succession.  

Sparks flew as her claws connected each time he blocked and if it wasn’t for Eskel coming in from her left he would have been tossed back.

As he went to come back in dancing in around Eskel and Varen one of her damn tails with a fucking dagger shot at him, it sinuously moved as it repetitively struck at him trying to drive him away, kinda reminding him of a krayans tentacles. He half spun left, right, and left again evading the damn thing, the trick with her tails was to disarm them, quickly.  She couldn’t see out the back of her head but her senses were incredible he tossed his sword into the air as he spun again this time in a full spin, gripped her tail, to which she gave a rather loud yip of surprise and with the palm of his hand knocked the dagger out.  He let go quickly before she got a hold of him, spun back and caught his sword as it came down hilt first. 

He did however hear the crowds roar in triumph at his move though. It was rather brilliant.

The three of them worked together trying to drive her back over the sand towards where the circle ended.

Geralt saw the smile, just as a green chalk bomb hit her, she sneezed and cursed in her language.  They darted back from her and looked seeing that the other two witchers had engaged her.

“Fuck she’s good” said Varen, as they paused to watch the two bears get pummelled.

Geralt winced when she tossed one about three meters into the air.

“She’s not holding back is she,” Varen remarked, the two wolves looked at him,.

“Varen, I hate to break it too you, but she is most definitely holding back,” muttered Geralt as Tarik went tumbling past them.

Eskel gave him a hand sign, Geralt grinned and Varen frowned, then the two wolves ran at her as she drove Haden back cornering him against a wyverns corpse. She spun just as the two of them hit her with a quen.

It staggered her and they then both signed yrden to which she just sighed and stood there.

“C’mon Bear, time to regroup.”

Haden grimaced and the three of them jogged over to the other two. 

They had a minute.

With a sword in the sand Geralt started drawing, “Okay you four, here’s the plan.”

 

————

 

Nearly every person in the stands were on their feet, the fight was going strong as Emhyr sat surveying it from his seat.

There was a big difference in this fight then the one in Novigrad, here she wasn’t restricted in height and she often used it to her advantage striking from above quickly and ferociously.

They were all covered in chalk by now and Takara was a streaming mess of colours, her clothes flaring out behind and around along with her tails her as she moved through each attack and defence, it was graceful and breathtaking almost like water in perpetual motion.  The witchers however were giving as good as they got and the crowd was loving it.

So were his nobles.

He shook his head a little as he watched both Elka and Haru excitedly leaning on the stone wall watching as Takara gave all five of the witchers a really hard time.

And through it all, heard by all was the abuse and vitriol spat by Emilé of Tellra who had, after Takara challenged him become very creative in his language.  He usually flared up when Takara got one of the witchers a good one then settled down again so it hadn’t been constant, but with the latest flare up of language Emhyr felt his eyebrows raise.

Too creative he thought.

“What does that mean?” Piped up his foster daughters voice. Emhyr sure as the sun rose wasn’t going to be the one to explain it and he would cut the tongue out of the person who did.

He waved over one of his guards, “Tell the Munera Guards to inform Emilé of Tellra that if he doesn’t stop swearing and cursing I’ll have his tongue burnt out of his mouth.”

The guard bowed and Emhyr heard the gasps of disbelief and quickly turned his head back to see the five witchers all thrown away from Takara, and she had grabbed one of the large wyverns with her claws and picked it up, the blue mist from before surrounded it and with an alrighty heave she threw it towards Tellra’s cage.

It struck not with a bang but a sound quite unlike anything he had ever heard before.

A sort of squelching crackling sound, kind of like when a water skin burst but not with water.

And the dead wyvern literally exploded into a deluge of viscous sludge that washed over Emilé of Tellra in a shower of liquified remains.

There was a pause in sound as everyone stared, then the five witchers who had come to their feet collectively started to snicker and chuckle then they stopped to cover their noses. Even from the opposite side of the amphitheater Emhyr caught the stench of it.  

The gagging from the crowds closest to Tellra cage would have been comical but he was thankful that one mage had the sense to put a magical filter over the amphitheater to filter the stench out before the gagging turned into vomiting.

Emilé of Tellra however wasn’t so lucky, he was on his knees doing precisely that, when he was finished still heaving however he had gotten back to his feet and was trying to find a spot that wasn’t almost ankle deep in the sludge.  

“Are you done with the cursing now Emilé? if not I have three more corpses I can throw at you.”

Oh she was evil, Emhyr was trying hard not to laugh, as punishments went that was inspired.

 Laughter came from the crowds at her words but the witcher remained silent and wedged himself into the corner of the cage, one of the Munera guards his hand covering his nose jogged up to speak to Emilé as Takara turned back to the others.

“Ready?”

The five men who had started to break into a sweat after a very intense 30 minutes lumbered up their sword wrists and got into fighting stances.  Each different depending on the school they were from.

“Effective punishment,” observed Ciri with dry humour.

“I have to actually wonder if she had enough or heard my order,” he replied back to his daughter.

“Balik?” Asked Ciri.

“I know her hearing is really good, but over the screaming crowds I have no idea.” Replied the Griffin as he answered, he had been answering the nobles questions since the fight started.  Morvran and another noble who was a high ranking member of his army had been particularly interested about the witchers way of fighting, the three very distinct styles had their attention and his.  If even half of those moves could be taught to his men or even to those who were considered master swordsmen they would be an impressive force.

Morvran turned to Ciri, “I’ve seen you fight when you train princess but I’ve never seen you incorporate those moves.”

“You’ve never seen me fight monsters my lord, you’ve seen me train with men who would find that method difficult to respond too so I don’t utilise it, now that Geralts here and settled into palace life however I have every intention of resuming my training with him.”

Emhyr gave a slight smile, “is Geralt aware of your intentions towards him?”

“Not at all,” she replied cheerfully, as the crowds rose and cheered Takara had driven the two men, Haden and Tarik out of the blue ring that marked the boundary of the fight, he clapped along with his nobles, they had put up a fantastic fight. 

She nodded her head to them as they bowed slightly to her acknowledging her win.

Emhyrs gaze widen as Haru exited over his mothers win jumped onto the marble rail yipping in joy.  Emhyr didn’t think he was up and moving before the kit lost his balance, Elka’s cry of fear carried over him as little boy pitched forward over the edge with a shrill shriek that had Takara spinning around. 

Emhyr however made it and grabbed the boy by his bushy tail and pulled him back over the lip, his heart in his throat, Haru squealed. 

“Haru, suwaru,” Takara said furiously her voice carrying over the noise, Emhyr all but tossed the little light weight into his arms and carried him back to his throne, he put Haru in Ciri’s lap, much to his daughters surprise and sat down on his throne.

“You’re not moving from there Haru until your mother gets back. Elka, come take your seat again.” He watched the young girl come back to her chair near him and sit down, she fluffed her skirt and straightened up trying on her princess face.

“Hai heika.” The boy kit said contritely as he wiggled a little.

Emhyr shook his head and sighed, children were a fright but as he watched Ciri settle Haru onto her lap stoking the boys soft luxurious fur on his head, and Elka growing one more step closer into the young woman she would be he acknowledged he wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

————

 

Takara turned back to the three witchers remaining, Haru had all but turned her fur whiter if that was indeed at possible. She would have caught him before he hit the ground, and truth be told he’d have a few broken bones if she hadn’t but the fall wouldn’t kill him.  

She would have to thank Emhyr for catching him.

And being pulled by the tail particularly your primary tail hurt a lot, so there was that.

The three Witchers left were working well together, Varen obviously figuring out that if he had a chance of success to stick with the ones who knew her the most, the school of the Griffin were also used to working together so their styles often intermingled. They were however not used to each other, it was a weakness she was using.

She had adapted to the Griffins style pretty quickly, it had been almost two centuries since she had actually had a fight with one of them so she was a little rusty in their particular style.

She flexed her fingers with a grimace, her left arm was practically useless, she could use it for balance and an easy defence, but the nerves were screaming in pain and she couldn’t use it for attack, much.

She tried, the pain had been intense.

Slowly does it, she reminded herself as she tried to circle the three men who were following her so that wasn’t easy, she crouched down again letting her tails move hypnotically, she was counting on Varen not knowing that her tails, moving in a particular patten could dull the mind of her prey just a fraction. She kept her focus on Eskel, her actual attention on Varen, she didn’t think he would be flattered if he knew, she saw him blink and shake his head a little.

Got you.

She moved, fast and several strikes which he parried furiously saw him reaching the edge of the circle.

One ill timed ard from Geralt though staggered her to the left and Varen came at her forcing her on the defence.  She leapt into the air, a high leap but Eskel threw another ard at her, the tactic used by every witcher against a flying creature, it too brought her to the ground, sand flew everywhere but she closed her eyes listening, focusing only on the five meters around her.

Each witcher had a distinct sound, from the armour, to their grip, to what they had on them, the clink and the shift of fabrics was different to each person.

Varen came and she gripped his sword twisted him about and kicked him away from her, not a hard kick, she mainly used his own momentum against him.

He staggered from her but regained his balance and she decided to employ one of her primary weapons of power, her light whip. It snaked out and she drove the Griffin back and as her two wolves came at her she circled it around herself, she mistimed Geralts moved though and he was hit hard enough to toss him back about seven meters, he skidded across the arena sand and into the large slyzard sized puddle of muck that still steamed on the ground.

Ooops, she thought as Geralt slowly got to his feet, the look of absolute disgust on his face told her, he wasn’t happy.

Looks like she owed him a new set of leathers, that stench was never going to come out.

Emilé she didn’t care about, he deserved it, she hadn’t payed much attention to his vitriol until she had heard little Elka ask what it meant.

It had been sexually demeaning and unrepeatable, she hadn’t thought she acted as if he were a kitsune in need of admonishment.  Which would be done in a manner that matched the crime so to speak.  

A filthy mouth meant a filthy mind.  Now he matched.

She let Geralt take his time as she went back to the other two, Eskel tossed his last chalk bomb at her and due to her momentary distraction with Geralt it went off near her feet.

It blinded her sense and her vision, the two of them came at her again, both breathing heavily, she responded using her tails and her claws, Eskel repeatedly going for her left side.

Her weakness, just like she had taught them.

One misstep by Varen however tangled the two together and she used force and power to shove them back.

Over the blue line.

She ignored the crowd and turned back to Geralt, her kit who was full of fire and a cynic now but one who was learning the wonder of the world once more.  She was thankful to Emhyr for that, he had brought Geralt back to where he had been before he met the sorceresses who had broken his heart.  

Geralt sighed, yes, it was just the two of them again.

“You know this is starting to become a habit,” he said, “Can’t you kick Eskels ass after this for failing so bad?”

“Oi, you’re the one who likes an ass whipping,” Eskel called back as the four who were out gathered together to watch and in true witcher form jeer at the witcher remaining, or yell hints and observations.

A time honoured tradition among them.

 “I suppose I can find the time to take you both back to basic training,” she said mildly, “You could both use a little re-polishing in some areas you’ve become sloppy in.”

Geralt grimaced at her and her smile deepened, yes she thought, she would most certainly take them through some more training.  

Ciri as well if she could tear the girl away from her duties.

Her wolf started his slow step sideways, his sword coming up as he started circling her, he knew he couldn’t win, but he would try damn hard.

She stayed still, not moving, letting him make the first mistake - engaging her.

She took note of the the crowd, it had settled down, so focused on the coming fight.  And then without warning, not a muscle twitch or an eye flicker to tell her what he planned. 

Geralt moved.

 

———

 

He moved, fast, almost blindly fast and fell into a series of quick kata’s to which she moved to block time and time again.

He didn’t think, just focused and let his muscles do the thinking for him, as he struck to the left she moved a little wrongly and he, as before concentrated most of his attacks on that side. His sword sliced through her sleeve sending the red and chalk stained fabric fluttering to the ground.

She narrowed her eyes at him a little and then smirked, her warning he realised.

She hit him back with the back of her claws, and then two of her tails came around to attack him from both sides and then while he was busy dodging them and defending himself from her right claws she did something he didn’t expect.

She attacked with her left hand, the claws swiped out and and raked through his armour, Metal plates, chain and leather.

“Dammit all Takara” he growled, it wasn’t just a patch job, it was a replacement job.  And he was now stuck having to hunt down a grandmaster armourer, they were as rare as hens teeth.

She ignored him but as he came back into the defensive positions he felt the shoulder pauldron of his armour fall off and hit the ground.

He growled, and then narrowed his eyes at her.  She had a tightness about her eyes that alarmed him, he had never seen it on her before, she was in actual pain he realised, he thought rapidly, he wanted to end this.

So he came at her again. 

And through the grace of what ever looked after him she moved employing a series of counter manoeuvres that had him moving backwards towards the blue line.  They had a ways to go so he didn’t try and change trajectory, she was so fast, he thought barely able to see what she was going for as she moved with a flurry. 

Using both sets of claws. 

It was by far one of the most vicious fight he had been in with her.  She really didn’t let up and he let all his senses open including his latest additions.  The world narrowed to these few seconds and all he could hear was his heart racing and his harsh breathing. The ever present strike of claws on silver.

Lunge, swipe, deflect.

Faster 

Faster

Faster.

A flicker in her eyes told him they were steps away from the line, one more back up he thought.

And as she lunged forward to back him up once more, he spun to her left and a solid kick to her butt, under the tails which were moving forward to push him back, had her stumbling over the blue line.

He blinked, wait he thought, as he spun back around to see her a step over the line.

Ohh sweet Melitile he thought.

He’d done it, he honestly hadn’t expected it to work.

She turned around, a somewhat amused part contrite look on her face, “well child of honour and fire, congratulations.”

“Umm, ha, well fought Takara.” He gave her a slight bow and she did the same.

The crowds had gone wild when she had stepped over the line and he looked about his gaze coming to rest on Eskel’s surprised face and then up at Emhyrs, his lover was clapping sedately, not with the same enthusiasm as almost everyone else but Geralt could see the look of pride in those whiskey brown eyes.

She stepped back over the line, and touched his cheek, “brilliant move at the end, I certainly didn’t expect it.”

“I didn’t think it would work.”

“It is often what we think won’t work that actually does, it was a well thought out plan and perfectly executed, I had no idea you were luring me into a trap until I felt your boot.”

He grinned at her.

“Now I had best release our wayward Bear.”

“If that stench hasn’t gotten to him” muttered Geralt. 

The others came over to him to congratulate him and Eskel pounded him on the back, “That hasn’t been done since we were boys. And with a hell of lot more of witchers against her.”

He smiled at him, and watched the other three men play to the crowds,

“Wave Geralt,” said Varen.

Geralt did and the crowds went louder, which he didn’t think was possible, they turned when they heard yelling and Takara had Emilé by the scruff of his neck.

She had gathered her power around her and he could see she was slowly rising on cloud of blue fire.

“Haru” she called and the kit moved, leaping from Ciri’s lap over the balcony, jumping from level to level until he was on the arena floor and at his mothers side.  She picked him up.

“Emilé, we really must talk.” And with a bow towards the Emperor she and her cloud were quickly out of the amphitheater and heading towards the outer city.

Geralt winced, whatever she was saying to Emilé wasn going to be pretty, but he really didn’t blame her.

“Right, I need a bath” said Varen, “and Geralt? whatever the fuck you landed in makes you reek like a two week old dead chort haunted by a grave hag.”

“Thanks Varen” he said dryly as he started following the others towards the tunnel back into the bowels of the amphitheater.  Wth one last look at Emhyr who nodded slightly at him he stepped lightly, confident in his victory.

He was looking forward to celebrating tonight with Emhyr, the gods knew his blood was up and he was certainly excited enough that tonight had the potential to be exciting.  

But first a bath, because Varen was right.

He really really needed one.

Chapter Text

Chapter 11

 

Takara let Emilé go at a height she knew he would survive from, a little battered and strained maybe but he wouldn’t break anything if he fell correctly.

He did just that, taking the weight of the fall in his knees and tumbling forward into a roll.  Takara landed softly beside him, letting her power disperse and placing Haru on the ground beside her.

He scampered about looking at the ruined stone walls and burnt remains of the Bastion.  

“I smell you!” He chirped, “is this your territory Hahaue?”

“Yes Haru, take your kitsune form and go explore, stay to the ruins while Emilé and I talk.”

Her kit just gave her his cheeky smile and she felt the tug of her power as he used it to shift his forms and become the little black furred kit she had first met, he yipped and nuzzled into her legs. She chuckled and stroked a hand down his fur, massaging the base of his tail, after being gripped and pulled like that it would still be hurting. He gave a soft wail of relief his red eyes closing, then as she patted his back, he leapt away and went chasing the butterflies flittering about the compound.

She focused her hearing and listened to the ever present sound of chisels and hammers in the distance, the work on the keep seemed to be going strong as autumn firmed its grip.

“Why here?” Emilé grumbled at her.

She looked at him, they had travelled fast and by fire to reach the valley, leaving behind the Munera and its people so that this well overdue talk could happen.  They had arrived at the keep and then she had immediately taken to the sky to come here.  

“Why not here?” She replied mildly as she crouched down and ran her fingers through the soft tall grasses that edge the remains of bastion entrance.  She chose the bastion due to its remoteness, and she needed to see the library and the keep, the need to check on it had been growing for a few days now so this effectively killed two birds with one stone.

He snorted, “just spit it out, although why you’re wasting your breath when you know I won’t change my mind I’ll never know.”

“Your hatred of me is a weakness Emilé, it blinds you to all that goes on around you and you’re unable to move past that hatred.”

He glared at her, his gaze a fire of fury, “I’ll find a way you, - one day, I’ll find a way to kill you.”

“Why do you hate me so?” She stood up and smoothed down the fabric of her very stained clothes, she looked a sight she thought ruefully.

Emilé was silent as he stared at her, baffled, “how can you ask me that? You know what you did.”

“I have done much in my life Emilé, it has been very long, you will have to be more specific.”

She saw the rage and anger and something she didn’t expect, grief.  She was looking at an old pain, a terrible wound and she had a feeling she knew, and in a way it hurt her heart, because now she would have to hurt his.

“Berrion.” 

Emilé growled to hear the name, how appropriate that she had chosen the bastion to have this talk, thought Takara as she shook her head in disbelief.  Damn the school of the Bear she thought savagely, she should have torn it down and salted the ground that Haer Caduch had been built on.

“Don’t speak his name you vile bitch, you killed him, you’re not worthy of say-“

She hissed at him, pulling her lips back to bare her fangs at him, lengthening them as she did so. “I will spit his name and curse him to the ends of the earth for what he did that night,” she snarled with such savage fury that it shocked Emilé into stepping back from her, his raised finger dropping from her face.

“You-“ he choked out.

“You obviously don’t know why I tore him to shreds, the Bears were told the reason and it appears that information was not passed on. Stay here Emilé, I will be back.”

She stepped away from him and turned to head back down into the the valley, calling her kit as she did.  

Haru came quickly and followed her down the path at a fast pace, far faster than any could run and within minutes they were at the edge of the clearing where the stonemasons had set up just before the Keep.  She called her greetings to the ones who kept the camp and the women who cleaned and cooked for the men.  They were startled to see her and shocked to see what condition she was in but they waved back at her all the same. She decided she would take the time to hunt a deer or two before she found Emilé again, the hunt would calm her.

Within a minute she was in the keep itself responding to the stone masons who were courageous enough to say hello to her.

As she came into one of the two inner courtyards where her tree had stood for centuries, she was stopped by Master Hadrian, the black haired older male, covered in stone chips and dust hurried up to her, “Lady Ayakashi, welcome back.”

“Thank you Master Hadrian, I’m afraid I won’t be staying long. I’m merely here to check on a few things, I see that everything is progressing as planned?”

“Yes my lady, we’re well ahead of schedule now, the walls are coming along nicely and the only problem was the south wall. We’ve had to tear it down to reinforce it but its progressing rapidly.”   

“A pity, but it was over seven centuries old.”  

He hesitated and then asked, “How did the Emperor respond to your captive?”

“He was most pleased, I asked for the bounty to be divided up among the men and women here and to be given to you all when the work here is complete.”

The good Masters jaw dropped, and he spluttered, “thats very generous of you my lady.”

“I think by the time this is completed you will have all earned it, since the bounty was sitting at fifteen thousand florens it’s a considerable sum of coin. Now forgive me, I do need to continue on and return to Nilfgaard.”

“Yes, my lady.”

He bowed to her and she turned to leave calling to Haru who had taken an interest in several of the masons and their gear.

As she pushed open on of the newly restored doors to the keep she paused to pick him up, “This is home my kit,” she said gently, he looked at her seriously and she felt the tug at her core as he changed into his half form. 

Without his clothes.

She raised an eyebrow at him, he quickly pulled a loose robe and formed it on and then said, “but Hahaue lives in the City with Emhyr and Geralt.”

“No dearest, I live here and Geralt often visits.  Once long ago these halls teemed with mages and Witchers and the ones who served the keeps needs.  Now there are only two Witcher’s from the school of the wolf who remain.”

“Then you should stay in the City, Emhyr likes you.”

“In truth kit, I am a greedy kitsune, I see all of this world as my territory,” she tickled her fingers under his ribs and he giggled, squirming at her touch. “But this is home, I guard these halls and I protect that which I have claimed as mine, as is our way.  Let me show you why I call Kaer Morhen home.”

With that she called her power to her, letting it infuse her and Haru with heat and warmth becoming one with it and she zipped her form of light through the flagstone floor and down into the recess of her home and the Library she guarded.

 

By the time she returned to Emilé she was washed and changed, choosing a black and silver kimono, with a white and red obi, Haru was sleepy and rested his head on her shoulder his little hand entwined in her hair.  She walked up the game trail towards the Bastion, as she approached she saw Emilé had taken the time to strip out of his gear and find the closest stream, he still smelt and would for weeks but at least he was clean, and was taking the time to eat she noticed.  He had caught a rabbit, two actually and had them roasting over a fire.

She put her child down by the fire not saying a word but Emilé pointed at the smaller rabbit, “Its not for you but the boy.”

She paused, taken back by Emilés actions, Haru woke up enough and looked at the rabbit. “May I?” He asked, pointing at it. 

Emilé gave a half smile and nodded and then picked up the small one, handing it to Haru, “its hot so don’t burn yourself.” Haru thanked him and took the offered rabbit, tearing a strip off to eat it.

Takara wanted to grimace, her kit had odd human habits, cooked meat and baths were two of them. He enjoyed the bath to the point she had to yank him out after he had been splashing around for an hour and he kept wanting her to bathe with him longer. She was in there no longer than necessary and hated every damned second.  

She blamed Geralt for Haru’s love of water, he apparently didn’t like the scent of unwashed foxes on everything so he would bath Haru when Haru had been Coal.  

“Well you wanted to tell me why you tore my brother to shreds.”

She could tell that the witcher was trying his best to put on a reasonable face and keep it civil, she did the same.

“It is best if I show you Emilé, are you aware of what this is?”

She held up a glowing green lamp, one that Geralt had given her to place with the library’s magical constructs.

Emilé shook his head, “barely any learning remember,” he said bitterly. She didn’t point out to him that he’d had over four centuries to learn and grow so she explained exactly what the lamp did.

At the end of the in depth description she continued on “when one knows how to use this correctly its not just some flashes of the past that you can see, you can direct it to certain points in time.”

“You’re going to show me his death?”

“No I’m going to show you why I killed him.” She sighed, “I never do anything without a reason and sometimes for many reasons.  Follow me Emilé, its not that far at all.”

She turned walking into the ruins and then up towards a ladder that reached onto the bastion ramparts and leapt up, leaving Emilé to clamber up to where she was, she opened the door to the only tower intact in the ruins and stepped in.

Emilé followed and flicked an igni to a torch on the wall.  

The were several small bed frames and a ladder that went up to another level of beds.

“The boys often stayed in the Bastion during summer and autumn but the keep in winter, the younger and newer boys bunked in this tower, the older boys in the other. That week we had three new cadets and they were placed here, not the keep, so they would be more settled.  Your brother bear Berrion had stayed with us for a month and was planning to winter with us.” She watched Emilé as he stepped further into the room and looked about him, his breath hitched. A telling sound and she looked at him, curious she thought and continued her tale.  “It was late autumn a few weeks before the passes would become impassable and the wolves were returning, a witcher returned who we had thought dead ten years.  The excitement was high and a feast was planned that night to welcome him back, Berrion kindly offered to watch the boys that night so the trainers could join in with everyone else.  His offer was accepted.”

She felt Emilé freeze and she could smell the scent of horror.

Don’t,” he choked, she watched him and saw the terrible look in his eyes, he either knew enough or was coming to a frightening realisation.  

But she wasn’t going to let this go, “You need to see Emilé,” she said gently but firmly, “you need to face this before you have any hope of moving forward.”

She held up the lamp and called upon the vision of the past, a past nearly four hundreds years ago, green light illuminated the room and two black figures appeared, a hulking giant of a man and a six year old boy.

She let the scene continue even when Emilés legs gave out from under him and he collapse at her feet covering his face with his hands.  She flinched when the boys muffled cries of fear and agony sounded through the room. The sound of the other two boys crying into their pillows and then the shrill scream that had pierced the night, distorted by time and space.  But she still remembered them, that scream had been the clarion call that had her flying from the keep at a speed and a snarl that had told the witchers something was very very wrong and sent them haring after her. 

And then she ended it.

The only sounds now were Emilés ragged breathing and the fist he pounded into the decaying floorboards. 

She gave him the time he needed and left the room.  

Leaping down the ramparts to join Haru who had nearly finished the burnt rabbit, leaving a little on the stick but had buried the remains.  

Hide all traces, leave no sign.  

It had served her kit well on their world, his life there abandoned and hated had been harsh and he still tried to hide his presence. She stroked his head as he curled up in her lap, falling asleep on her shoulder as she watched the suns decent over the mountains and night fall as the moon rose to view.

She knew Emilé was behind her, had known precisely when he had come out of the room that had told him a truth so harsh that it tore his heart.

She spoke before he could sit or say anything.

“I sent the school of the Bear a missive, sent it to every school actually, but in particular it was directed to the Bears.  I informed the head witcher there what had happened here.  I said that if I ever found out, from that day going forward, that any child under their care was raped or sexually exploited by their trainers I would storm through the stronghold and tear it to the ground.  I would then hunt the world to find any of the Bear and slay them where they stood for standing by and doing nothing.”  She paused, and then continued, “Children are precious, they are the future of any race or species, and while I could not stop what was being done here to create the Witcher’s themselves I did demanded the witchers here stop the practice if they wanted what I could teach them.  Berrion was not the first witcher I killed for raping a child, he was however the first in a long time, and the last.”

Emilé hesitated and then sat by the fire, he looked haggard in the orange light and he picked up a stick to stoke the fire.

“So thats why they forbade it. Not long after Berrion - well they stopped the practice.” He said his voice breaking, he paused and cleared his throat, “when I was being trained, we all had to repay the trainers for their time, in servitude usually sex.” He was silent for a little while, and he picked up the rabbit still waiting for him, although she had removed it from the flame so it wouldn’t burn to char.  Emilé picked at it, then spoke. “ I remember,” he swallowed, voice thick, “Fuck, it hurt so much that I swore I would never ask it of a child under me.  Berrion said the same thing, promised the same thing, the trainer who liked him the most was a man who liked to hurt you, Berrion could take a lot of pain but,” Emilé sighed and shook his head. “Then when we left Haer Caduch we came to find out how much its frowned on, how despicable the act is. I can’t, I don’t want to believe it, but I can’t refute what you showed me.” 

“I am sorry Emilé.”

“The boy, was he okay?”

She hesitated, and then shook her head, “his name was Arien, he died of his wounds later that night, the mages were at a gathering so there was no help to stem the bleeding. It was a vicious rape Emilé and Berrion was a very large man, Arien was small for his age, malnourished and ill.  I had already questioned if he should be a cadet or trained in service to the keep, until the mages came back though he was with the other boys.”

The witcher was silent for a long long while, “I don’t know if I can thank you for telling me, but I can say thank you for stopping it at Haer Caduch.”

“I don’t expect your thanks but I would ask that you set aside your hatred just a little, it’s disruptive.”

He huffed and then shook his head, “more than just a little, I’m glad I know the truth now, I’ve held you responsible for killing my friend when really you put down a monster. The head witcher said you went feral and killed him and that the wolves would do nothing about it. Can - I know I don’t have the right to ask but can we start over?”

Takara looked at him, courageous of him to ask and to offer the olive branch, she did not expect it. She was silent for a minute and then for the first time since she had met him so many years ago, she smiled truly and held out her hand. Emilé hesitated and then took it in his own, it was calloused and scarred, “my name is Takara Ayakashi, I guard the library of Kaer Morhen.”

He blinked and then chuckled, “starting a new it is then, I’m Emilé of Tellra, school of the Bear.  I’ve heard wonderful things about the library and its Guardian.”

“Well then Emilé, when the time comes and the valley is at peace once more, I’d be happy to show you it.  But for now it is time we left.”

“Can I ask one thing before we go, I looked over the valley to see the keep being rebuilt, how is that possible?” He asked as they stood up, signing igni to put out the camp fire.

“Emhyr var Emreis and I came to an agreement.”

“So Nilfgaard now owns Kaer Morhen.” He sounded disappointed, and she couldn’t help the smile.

“No, the var Emreis house has payed for the restoration, not the empire, the library is to be given as a gift to Ciri on her coronation, to remain in var Emreis’s protection.  With so few witchers left the library has fallen into disuse, that is not what a library is, the school will once again be a keep but for learning.”

He looked back towards the keep, unseen from this distance and the trees but he had a thoughtful expression on his face, “Thats a good legacy,” was all he said as Takara came over to him holding out her hand.

He took it and stood beside her as she gathered her power, “I would ask you keep that to yourself.” She said to him and he gave a slight grin, then nodded his head as blue flame flared around them in a coruscating force.

Then she focused on where she wanted to be, seeing the witcher barracks within her mind, and then let her power go, to take them there.

 

————

 

Emhyr paced his bedroom, it was late and so was Geralt, he should have been back a few hours ago, had said that morning he would return in the evening, it was now six bells.  So unless he had changed his mind and gone to celebrate with the other witchers he was due back two hours ago.  And if he had chosen to remain and celebrate Emhyr would have appreciated a missive, he muttered under his breath, Geralt and he would be having a talk about common courtesy, he wasn’t a controlling lover, in this aspect at least, and he would -

The door to his bed room opened and Geralt walked in wearing a set of clean practice clothes and a grumpy face, but he brought in a nasty stench that made Emhyrs eyes almost water.

“I thought you would have bathed while at the amphitheater,” remarked Emhyr as he rang the bell, Geralt was having a bath, now

Geralt’s grumpy expression turned into a scowl, “where the fuck do you think I’ve been? The stench won’t come out, my armours absolutely ruined and according to Varen I still reek like a two week old dead chort, but at least the grave hag is gone.”

“It may take a bath or two to come out then.” Emhyr said to him, Geralt levelled him a look of annoyance that made Emhyr rise his eyebrows in return.

“Emhyr, in the last five hours I’ve had close to six baths, I’ve been scrubbed down with oils, salt, scented oils, scented salts, herbs, flowers and I’ve sat in a barrel of tomato juice.  Nothing is making the smell budge, I just tried to find Takara to yell at her, I’ve never yelled at her in my life but shes not here.”

“Ah,” said Emhyr, understanding the implications immediately and realising just why his witcher was annoyed and grumpy, there had been a promise in Geralts eyes after he had won the fight.  Emhyr had been looking forward to it, “have you asked the mages?”

“Yes, we consulted one in the Munera he gave me an oil concoction, that peeled a layer of skin off and gave me a rash thats only just healed.”

They were silent and then Emhyr muttered, “Its intolerable.” And it really was, the smell was getting thicker.

“You think?” Geralt replied sarcastically.

“Yes, bring me Mererid!” He ordered a servant who had been there to attend him.

Mererid walked in a few minutes later and actually stepped back a half step when he caught a whiff of Geralt, “Sire” he managed to say without choking on the smell, his face his usual deadpan expression.

“Call Gerantieth and Yennefer here, also the head alchemist in charge of the Imperial stores and Lanfare.  I want that stench off Geralt now.”

“Yes sire.”   

As Mererid left Geralt crossed his arms over his chest and then gave him a mischievous look, “so, no kiss to welcome the victor home?” He asked mildly, a twinkle in those amber eyes.

Emhyr blinked, that was asking a little to much wasn’t it? He thought about it, that was what was customarily done but - may the Great Sun defend him, Geralt smelt worse than anything he had ever smelt before.

“I slaved in that ring, the first four sets were a little on the rough side but then someone sicced Takara on us, I deserve a kiss and a bloody medal.”

“You can thank Ciri for that,” growled Emhyr, as he reluctantly stepped towards his lover, a room separated them so he had a fair few steps to take before he was at Geralts side and each step he had to exercise considerable will power from throwing up.

Geralt grinned at him, “Might of known it was the treasonous foster daughter of mine, you look like you want to be anywhere but here.

“Geralt I’m about to cast up my accounts all over your boots, just kiss me and get this over with.”

Geralt leaned and kissed him on the lips, it was slow and sensual a direct promise of what he offered, and it tasted just like Geralt, all heat and fire and that indescribable berry like taste he always had. When Geralt pulled back Emhyr swayed forward to follow, he stopped himself. 

“I’ll go jump in the bath, we figured out that water blocks the smell, when I’m in the bath I don’t smell near as bad.”

Emhyr narrowed his eyes, “You could have waited until you were in the bath to ask for a kiss,” he growled at him.

“Yeah, but where’s the fun in that.” Said his irreverent witcher as he walked into the bathing chamber.

Well that called for some serious retaliation thought Emhyr as he ordered several servants to air out his room.  When he walked into the bathing room Geralt was already in the big pool and up to his chin in the water.  And while autumn was certainly here the day had been warm enough that he had ordered the large windows to be pulled open when he had bathed before, they were open still.

“It seems to me beloved that you are asking for attention,” he purred as the attendants quickly moved out of the room at his direction.

Geralt just stared at him and then smiled, a slow steamy smile that made Emhyrs heartbeat pick up, “why wouldn’t I want the attention of the man I love? And I just literally kicked Takara’s butt out of the fighting ring. Do you know how utterly high my libido is sitting right about now. It hasn’t come down since I won and I can’t wait to show you just how high it is.”

Emhyr blinked at that, “its a pity you smell riper than a cesspit.” He murmured, Geralt pulled his arm out of the water and sniffed it with a grimace.

“Eskels pissed off with me by the way.”

Emhyr ached a brow at the change of conversation, “Oh?”

“He helped peel me out of my armour, he was in his braies at the time and we didn’t know that the gunk that I landed in was a permanent new fragrance so now he smells just as bad as me.  Apparently Fainrael had ideas tonight that he was looking forward too.”

Emhyr couldn’t help the laugh that bubbled up at Geralts smug expression, “you two never change do you?”

“Lord no, with only the two of us wolves left we have to continue the time honoured traditions, messin with each other is one of them.”

“You were both brilliant to watch in the arena today, all of you were incredible, but you and Eskel work so well together its like watching one person.  You mirror each other’s moves and seem to know what the other is thinking, its a deadly partnership.” Said Emhyr as he grabbed a few of the cushions scattered around the room and made a soft spot to sit, and then took two glasses of wine, handing one to Geralt as he sat down to recline near to his witcher. 

“Planning on keeping me company until the learned ones arrive?” Asked Geralt as he moved over to the edge and took the wine.

“But of course,” Emhyr replied easily as he reached out and carded his hand through Geralts wet hair, “as much as I have full confidence in your abilities I must say I didn’t expect you to beat Takara.”

“Her hand, she’s not able to fight as well and we took advantage of it.” Stated Geralt, “I honestly did not expect to win.”

“Still hasn’t healed? Do you know what she did?”

His lover raised himself out of the water a little so that he was leaning on the lip of the pool, his glass in one hand, “All she said was that it was powerful and she has had to regrow her arm,”

Emhyr paused this own glass halfway to his lips, “regrow? As in she lost her arm?”

Geralt nodded, “Whatever it was sliced through her upper arm and destroyed it, she said she was forced to regrow it.” Geralt looked worried and it made Emhyr think, what on earth could be powerful enough to take Takara on and injure her that badly.

“Did she at least kill it?”

“Yes, and its offspring.” He sounded relieved and so was Emhyr.  He wondered if he asked Takara for a report on the creature if she would give it to him, somehow he didn’t think she would.

Geralt looked over at the door and Emhyr knew their short time alone was over, he stayed there however as Mererid ushered in the four people who might be able to help.

Gerantieth looked thoughtful, Yennefer looked amused, as did Lanfare and Master Torrin looked bemused.

“Geralt I must say you’ve come back from hunts smelling to the high heavens before but you out did yourself this time.”

“Thanks Yen, what can I say I excelled myself,” said Geralt dryly.

Lanfare chuckled, “Have you tried tomato juice?”

“Yes,”

“So not an acid based cleanser then,” said Torrin softly and then the four of them put their heads together to see just what they could do for Geralt.

Emhyr soon moved out of the way however as he watched in bemusement as his bathing chamber soon started resembling an alchemists lab and in the next two hours Geralt had everything that the four of them, and Mererid could think of rubbed on him.  

Nothing was working.

The five of them were standing there consulting notes and trying to figure out something to try now while he stood there watching Geralt prune himself further, he was starting to find the situation somewhat amusing but Geralt he could see was not having a happy time of it.  

He had just resigned himself to having to somehow put up with the smell when the bathing chamber door opened and a black streak of fur dashed in and dove for the water, landing with a splash that sent water surging over the marble floor, and into Geralts face.  

Instead of a kitsune coming up out of the water however, a little boy poked his head up and gave Geralt a sniff, “Geralt, you stink.”

“Your powers of observation kiddo are amazing.” Geralt said slightly sarcastic as he craned his neck to watch Takara walk in, she gave Emhyr a slight bow and nodded to the mages and smiled gently to Lanfare, Emhyr was amused to watch his witchers eyes narrow at Takara.

“My armour is ruined!” Geralt growled at her, he was sitting in a bath for the umpteenth time and the first thing he goes to do - berate Takara over was the state of his armour. Emhyr shook his head, he and Geralt needed to have a talk about priorities it seemed.

She arched a perfectly white brow at him, “you’re more worried about your armour that your current aromatic condition?” She inquired with amusement, Emhyr snorted.

“Don’t try changing the subject, I’m resigned to the fact this is never coming off.”

Emhyr watched as she reached into her black kimono, such a harsh colour for her he thought but rather striking with her colouring, and removed a cut crystal perfume bottle with a glass stopper.

She handed it to Emhyr, who took it with surprise, “rub it all over him, keep him still and let him marinate for thirty minutes and then scrape it off him, bathe to remove the excess and he’ll be fine.”

Emhyr sighed in relief at the set of instructions, but the slight smirk she was making made him raise and eyebrow at her, her smile widened and she looked from Emhyr to Geralt.

“Unfortunately Geralt its made with a certain seed from a certain plant so you will have a few side affects.”

“Side effects?” Geralt said with a groan, “whats it made from?”

“Clerbine” she replied cheerfully.

Geralt swore a blue streak and Emhyr realised why she had given it to him, and told him to keep him still.

“Oh, well then,” he murmured, his own libido rising at the memory of what Seibet did to Geralt. “Thank you for your efforts, Master’s and Lady Yennefer,“ he didn’t need an audience for the next part of his night, the four of them bowed to him and quickly left the room after Mererid assured them he would oversee the equipments removal.

As they left Geralt, still in the pool with a happily splashing boy said, “I’m fine I’d rather bask in my new aromatic condition as you so wonderfully put it”

“No, I am not living through this nightmarish stench of yours.” Snapped Emhyr at Geralt.

Geralt look at him in desperation, “Stand upwind then,” he said tentatively to which Emhyr just pointed towards the massage table.

Geralt groaned and then must have realised that Takara was still in the room, “There is nothing else that could work?” He asked her pleadingly.

“No Geralt, Emilé cursed up a storm as well, I left him with Haden and Tarik though I’m sure they’ll have a wonderful time tonight.” She remarked with amusement.

“You didn’t kill him,” Geralt sounded disappointed and Takara shook her head.

“We spoke and resolved a few issues.” 

“And Eskel?”

“Eskel wasn’t there. I’m assuming he’s with Fainrael.”  

Geralt grinned at her, “So you don’t know that he got that crap all over him while getting me out of my armour.”

Takara was silent for a minute and then she sighed, “Why must you two share in your shenanigans?”

“I’ve been asking that question for awhile now,” muttered Emhyr as she shook her head at Geralt.

“I’ll track them down and give them a bottle of it,” she said decisively, “now if you’ll excuse me gentlemen, I’ll leave you to it.  Do enjoy yourselves.” The spark in her eyes made Geralt whimper and Emhyr smile back at her.

“I have every intention too Lady Takara,” he purred at her with a bow towards her.

She laughed, pointed at her kit and told Haru to get out, they boy sighed as if it was an effort to obey her but did as he was told and waddled over to her naked as a jay bird.

She sighed again, “Clothing Haru.” He grinned at his mother and then had his clothes on and the two of them walked out the balcony doors.

Emhyr turned his attention to Geralt, who was still in the pool and decidedly not moving.

“I hate clerbine,” cursed Geralt.

“I know, but it will be over by the morning and you won’t smell like a dead whatever.”

Geralt stood up and stormed out of the pool, furiously drying himself off with a towel.  He hooked it around his waist and then looked at Emhyr.

“I had plans for tonight, they didn’t involve me being restrained and smothered in an oil from hell.”

“I was looking forward to the promise I saw in your eyes,” Emhyr assured him and Geralt gave him a mollified look, “you can keep that promise tomorrow.” 

Geralt walked over to the massage table and flopped down onto his stomach, “well at least I get a massage out of this, no one wanted to touch me at the amphitheater, wasn’t sure because I was your lover and they didn’t want to loose their heads or if it was because I stank so gods damned much.”

“I’m sure in their minds it was much of the same.” Said Emhyr as he pulled off his tunic and shirt as he walked over to his lover, his cock already half hard, even with that thrice damned stench coming off him.

As he stepped up beside Geralt, he pulled the stopper and scented the oil, definite smell of Clerbine and a note of an unusual musk that he had never scented before, it was subtle and smelt incredible, he couldn’t tell if it was masculine or feminine.  He liked it.

He looked down at the muscular back in front of him, the scars a map of battles and victories, he loved tracing them and licking his way along each ridge.  He knew each and everyone of them by now and he pretty much knew how Geralt had acquired them too.

With that he held up the bottle and tilted it, the oil poured out and pooled on Geralts back, who hissed at the cool feel.

Emhyr put down the bottle and rubbed his hands together and silently thanking Takara, he got to work oiling up his lover, the faster he did this the quicker the smell would go and the quicker he could finally enjoy having Geralt under him writhing in pleasure.

Chapter Text

Chapter 12

 

Emhyr’s firm fingers dug into a tender spot on Geralts hip bone and the ever present pleasure that was dancing over his skin shot through him faster than Takara could wack him one.  He arched his back, pulling against the ropes that bound his hands on either side of his head as his cock throbbed at the sensation. Geralt panted at it all and then settled back into the bed, sinking into the soft underneath that seemed to cradle him as the feeling ebbed.

The sheets below him glided against his sensitised skin as he shifted and he whimpered at the touch, his body one giant mass of sensitised flesh.

Fucking clerbine, he thought dazedly as Emhyr trailed the feather over his nipple again and then held his hips down with one hand so Geralt could only arch against nothing, not the belly that was so close to his cock, not the touch that he ached for.

He needed that touch, that pressure and his bastard of a lover was denying him it, he groaned out loud and wasn’t adverse to pleading.

“Em-Emhyr,” he managed to gasp out as Emhyr lent over him and licked the same nipple, he choked at the feeling of the heat and touch of that talented tongue. 

Okay maybe pleading was a little beyond him he managed to realise as he just stumbled over Emhyrs name repeatedly .

“Hmm, Geralt? Have you lost your words?” Emhyr purred as he pulled back, and trailing the feather down Geralts sternum, flicking it with a twist if his fingers as he did so that it wasn’t just a caress but so much more.

Geralt tried to focus, words, thats right he had words he could use, “I’ll shove that feather somewhere if you don’t fuck me,” He tried to growl, it came out as a whimper.

Emhyr just smiled unashamedly and lent in to kiss him, the kiss drove every though he had ever had in his head out and Geralt lost his mind to the taste and touch of Emhyrs heated and primal kiss, the essence of the aphrodisiac Emhyr had taken still a deep pleasure in the taste. 

“Patience witcher, think of this as a hunt where you must exercise patience and control.” Emhyrs voice had lost its urban edge recently, the drug only now just starting to take effect.

Control, thought Geralt wildly, who the fuck was Emhyr kidding, Geralts control had gone out the window five minutes into that massage, that oil was like rubbing liquid lightening on his skin, it had become so sensitive that even air on his skin was arousing him.

Then while Geralt was coming down off an orgasm that had come out of nowhere and caught both him and Emhyr by complete surprise, Emhyr, the prick, had rubbed that oil down his ass crack and around the entrance to his body.

He’d been up off that table in seconds swearing and glaring at Emhyr, who had merely given him an evil smile and said, “Geralt beloved, what ever is the matter?”

The bathroom had become a room of want and need and while he’d been ‘marinating’ in that oil Emhyr had played his body like a finely tuned instrument.  Then came the time when he’d scraped the oil off.  

Yeah, that had been a mess of epic proportions, and afterwards before Emhyr could steer his throbbing and aching body into the heated pool, he’d all but rolled into the smaller and cold bath.

It had been a shock to his senses and was enough to clear his mind to grumble and growl about it all.

Emhyr had just lounged in the heated pool staring at him, his eyes as heated as the water which had done the job of helping Geralts libido along as well.

He had exited the pool with an ‘I’m going to bed’ in full denial that the night had really only just begun.

He’d thrown himself into bed, and closed his eyes almost begging his body to obey but the steady rise in his senses and his skin told him that it was useless. By the time he had gotten hot enough to throw back the blanket Emhyr had casually prowled into the room, a familiar length of rope in one hand and small box in the other.  

Geralt had firmly ignored him, and Emhyr had sat on the side of the bed trailing his fingers over Geralts now sweating skin, Geralt had known it wouldn’t be long before his need would have him humping the sheets. 

He had gritted his teeth.

“I asked Eskel what happens when you deny yourself when you take Seibet, he said that the sensitive skin would soon become painful to stimuli if left untouched and the need becomes pain.  Why deny yourself the pleasure beloved?”

“Because its not my pleasure,” he’d growled, “and I hate being so out of control.”

“I often bring you to that point,” Emhyr pointed out.

Geralt had rolled over to lay on his back and face him, his skin almost purring in response to the tactile stimulation, “Yes you do,” he had agreed. “Because I allow it, if I didn’t I would just set the mutations off to deny my bodies responses. This need, I hate it, I can’t turn it off.”

Emhyr had reach out and cupped his cheek and Geralt had moaned into the caress, “then allow me to join you in that need,” he had whispered as he took Geralts mouth, Geralt had immediately tasted the difference.

“What have you done?” He asked a slight pant as he did.

“Atreus, its an aphrodisiac, lasts close to three hours, I’ll still be in control mostly but the need and desire are greater and harder.”

Geralt blinked, Emhyr had spoken of using aphrodisiacs but had never actually taken one around him before.

“You shouldn’t have-“

Emhyr placed a finger on Geralts lips, “my choice,” he had murmured then kissed him again.

That kiss had led them to him being tied to the bed, his blood all but singing as Emhyr held him down and took what he wanted, his lips caressing each scar and every imperfection Geralt had, and he had been afire with need.

Still was.

And the man wanted control, he thought desperately.  

That wasn’t happening anytime soon.

As the fingers that had danced the feather over his belly came to his cock, Geralt all but tried to levitate and he yelled, vaguely hoping that the guards came in to save him.

They were a no show, typical he thought wildly, and came hard when Emhyr closed his mouth over Geralts cock.

Emhyr purred and the vibrations had sent his mind into an abyss of dark ecstasy that took him a while to climb back out of.

And so it went on, Emhyr would play him and then play him some more.  But when his lover finally snapped under the effects of the drug he had taken, the sex had been insane.

Emhyr did have control, but he had been exacting and darkly beautiful in it while he had taken Geralts body, not only did he fuck Geralt hard and long, his movements were hypnotic as pleasure and a hint of pain tore through Geralt again and again. Geralt was barely able to keep up with the demanding pace of Emhyrs heavy thrusts and then he had ridden Geralts cock as hard as Geralt had wanted him too.

The sight of Emhyr, his back arched as he sat astride Geralt had tugged at a primal part of Geralt that was beyond the touch of clerbine and from somewhere deep within him he had found a desire that had him breaking through the bindings he was in. He broke the beds decorative wooden panels as he did and sat up to hold Emhyr to him, capturing his lips in a kiss.

Emhyrs need for control then had firmed in place and they had wrestled it out a bit but truth be told, Geralt was far too distracted by the hot hold of Emhyrs body on his cock.

Soon after that, everything melded together.

The heat

The need

The relief and the ever present ecstasy until it eclipsed all sensation and all desire, at the end of it all, they both fell into an exhausted sleep with in each other’s arms.

 

Geralt woke with a snap of eyelids as Mererids voice gently pressed for Emhyr to wake up, he lifted his head and grunted at the weight on his back and realised Emhyr had fallen asleep on him at some time during the night.  

And he really couldn’t remember when.  But the position told him just what they had been doing just before hand though.

How embarrassing was that he realised when he caught sight of Mererids rather perplexed gaze.

“He won’t wake up sir Geralt.”

“I’m not surprised, I was riding high on an aphrodisiac oil that was the only thing to get that smell off so he decided to take one as well.” He grunted and tried to shift under Emhyr, the sheets stank he realised and he was definitely lying in a wet patch, a very large one at that.

He sighed, knowing his face was going red as Mererid blinked at him twice, then moved to help Geralt gently shift Emhyr off him so he could turn over and sit up.

“Are you aware of which one?”

Geralt shook his head, his memory was a bit of a blur, “I think it began with A,” was all he said as Mererid handed him a glass of water.

“Atreus, then you will only have - ah - stopped in the last few hours, I’ll have Adventis push his Imperial Majesty’s day back until midday.”

“Good, I’ll let him sleep for awhile longer then,” Geralt groaned as he got up out of the bed, his head swimming a little but thankfully took the proffered robe from Mererid.  Emhyr he noticed immediately rolled into the spot Geralt had been in and grunted in his sleep. Geralt shook his head with a little smile, his fastidious lover was going to growl when he woke and and realised what he was sleeping in.

Mererid merely nodded his head and bowed slightly, “where shall I tell his Imperial Majesty to find you?”

“Next door, I’ll use the practice room for a warm up.”

He really needed to move his muscles and he had every intention of going through his potions case to find something to give him a kick up the butt this morning.  Last night, what he could remember of it, had been both hellish and absolutely exhilarating.  

And he wasn’t doing it again.

He stepped into the consorts rooms and walked over to a chest, taking out some practice clothes and changing into them. Then after a good set of stretches to limber himself up he chose a sword at random, and then started working his way through the advanced Katas. 

It was almost meditative, the swing and glide, the follow through, the gentle and methodical placing of stance and blade.

He started slow and by the eighth kata he had increased his pace so that everything was a blur.

It came as a shock when his blade struck another with the sound of steel striking steel, sparks flying and Takara’s amused gaze captured his own as he took a step back from the unintended contact.

“Good Morning Geralt.”

“Morning Takara,” he replied, noting that she was dressed in a blue kimono and held one of his blades in her hand.

“May I join you in the Kata?” She asked.

“By all means,” he replied easily and with the practice of two who knew each other’s style, they slid into the practice session with grace and precision.

The two of them moved, Geralt whose century of life as a witcher had given him the ability to move with almost the same liquid elegance that Takara moved with naturally, kept up as they danced a bladed dance, Geralt mirroring Takara as they went.

When they came to an end, their bodies facing each other, legs in a lunge position, one arm extended behind them for balance and their sword tips almost kissing, a slow clap sounded from the now open door.

Geralt had known Emhyr was watching, had been watching for a little while, and he turned to see him step into the room.

Washed, dressed and with a damp bundle of black fur in his arms, Haru looked about as happy as a dragon on his treasure pile as he all but wiggled for Emhyrs attention.

Takara sighed, “I did leave him downstairs in the garden with the firm instructions not to bother you, he’s getting better at masking his scent from me.”

“Its all good, he came in to check to make sure I was sleeping well, Mererid let him ‘guard and protect me’ while I slept,” Emhyr said with a smile as he handed over Haru to Takara. 

Haru licked Emhyrs chin and went willingly to his mother who scowled at the kit, “you’re really starting to push the limits child,” she said warningly at him, Haru however just flopped in her arms.

“I know its your day off Geralt,” said Emhyr as he reached out and touched Geralts arm gently, “but Elka has requested permission to go into the city today.  I was wondering if you would mind accompanying her and Anaria, and their new tutor.”

Geralt whose days plan had been to try and clean his armour to salvage anything from it, immediately agreed to the change in his day.

“Thank you, breakfast is in half a bell, you’re more than welcome to join us Takara.”

“Thank you for the invitation but Haru and I are going hunting today, we’ll be back tomorrow.”

This want unusual, she left at least once a week to hunt so Geralt and Emhyr both said goodbye to the pair as they went to leave and Geralt grinned at Emhyr. “Sleep well?” He asked unrepentantly, he had noticed a stiffness of movement when Emhyr had handed over Haru to Takara.

“I think I’m getting too old for the type of pleasure that last night held, I’m aching in places that shouldn’t be aching,” grumbled Emhyr as he leant in as he and Geralt shared in a tender kiss.

“Isn’t there a saying that goes something along the lines of pain makes it worth doing.”

Emhyr rolled his eyes, “go bathe, I’ll be in my office until breakfast, theres a public works committee meeting this afternoon that I must attend.”

“Sure, I’ll go wash the night off.”

With that the two of them parted, Geralt to scrub himself clean and Emhyr to brush up on the days work.  

As he stretched his muscles in the warm water Geralt thought about why Elka wanted to do in the city, she had had several excursions so far but this was the first time she had requested permission to leave the palace.  Knowing the girl as he did he had no trouble wondering what she could possibly want, Emhyrs birthday was fast approaching and he had a feeling she wanted to go shopping.  She liked to explore and liked to see new things, she also had taken a shine to archery in the last few weeks, he had been meaning to order her a set of leather guards for her arms so maybe they could swing by the armourer to order her a set.

That in mind he finished up and dressed, sitting still while the barber shaved off his days growth and ummed and arrhhed over the length of his hair.

He got off not having the hair cut.

As he walked into the dining room there was an array of breakfast choices, everything from the traditional northern breakfast to the more southern fare that involved things like fermented curdled milk, pastries and fruits.  He was still trying to get over the first time he had tried the curdled milk, it had smelt sour and tasted worse.

Mererid indicated he didn’t have to wait so he tucked in, grabbing a bowl of porridge and shoving dried fruit into it. 

Mererid and the servants who were in the room were well aware that he preferred to serve himself and defended that belief with rigorous debate if need be. 

They didn’t serve him anymore.

Emhyr walked in, his face buried in a sheaf of papers and a frown on his face then without looking took his seat still reading and was served his breakfast.  Geralt looked on with amusement, it wasn’t often that Emhyr would be so involved in his work that he didn’t say hello or acknowledge his presence.

“What has you so interested?”

“Trade.”

“Any trade in particular?” He wondered if this was going to be a monosyllabic question and answer.

“Exotic goods from beyond the Great Sea, theres been a decrease in trade with Zangvebar and Orfir in the last 18 months and its effected both the ivory trade here and mimosa bark stores, which is the primary ingredient in several healing potions.” Emhyr finally looked up at him and he gave a small tight smile, “I’ve just got the report back from my spies stationed in Orfir and it appears its due to war, the Malliq, Nibras, has decided to invade Zangvebar.”

“Nothing you can do then.”

“No, but its inconvenient, I have several Trade Corporations crying about lost revenue and the Council of Healers isn’t too happy that Mimosa bark is now at a premium price.  It’s inconvenient because Orfir is sending over a new Trade ambassador as Nibras wants a trading partnership with Nilfgaard and I now have to deal with a new trade negotiations on top of everything else.” He tossed the papers to the side of his plate and growled, rubbing the spot between his eyes. Geralt shook his head, his lover was hands on and even though his reign was winding down was still very hands on in his rule.

“Get Ciri to do it.”

Emhyr paused and narrowed his eyes at Geralt, the expression thoughtful, “explain your reasoning,” he commanded Geralt.

Geralt scrambled to think, “She’s going to be Empress within the year and the one dealing with Orfir from that point on, so it would make sense that she leads the negotiations in a deal that will benefit her reign not yours.  Also shes neck deep in the Trade Corporations and has them on a tight leash, she can wrangle them and the senate, saves you the headache.”

“The idea has Merit.”

“Of course it does, it gets her out of your hair and projects the image as Empress in training better.” He was trying to say that it gave her a shield for her other project as well, the one investigating the mages and a possible conspiracy.

Emhyr picked up his knife and fork still frowning and then nodded decisively, “then it shall be as you suggested beloved.  I’ll have Adventis inform Cirilla that she is to take control of this affair, and that she will have my complete support in whatever negotiations she decides is in Nilfgaards best interests.”

With that decided Geralt watched as Emhyr started to eat, he was vaguely shocked though. He had just advised the Emperor on an International policy that would affect he entire continent and Emhyr had just casually gone with his flippant suggestion to let Ciri handle it.  He’d had to think quick when Emhyr had demanded his reasoning because he’d been half joking.  But as the idea had firmed in his mind he could see the benefits, and Emhyr obviously did as well.

He had never expected that level of trust outside their relationship, sure he advised Emhyr on certain things in the past, but it usually had to do with monsters not Imperial Affairs.

As Emhyr ate his breakfast, Geralt put down his spoon, his mind awhirl with what had just happened. He decided that if Emhyr was going to listen to him then he needed to be very careful in what he suggested, he knew Emhyr wouldn’t implement anything stupid but all the same, Geralt had Emhyrs ear in a way that many would salivate to have.  It meant Geralt was a prime target by others to be used as well. 

As that idea came to him he suddenly realised that there was a whole host of conversations in the past month that had a whole different meaning put on the interaction.

It was a game, he concluded bitterly, a game of Courtly Intrigue, and this little piggy, he perceived with an internal growl, was a choice cut of meat for many who thought he could be bought, bribed or manipulated.  

He would show the Golden Court of Nilfgaard he wasn’t a backward simpleton they could play with - this chew toy had fangs and wasn’t adverse to biting back.

Savagely if need be.

Chapter Text

Chapter 13

 

Geralt stood behind Elka looking as intimidating as possible, and doing a thorough job of it according to his other little girl. Said little girl was walking the shopping district with Anaria, her tutor Miss Enra and him, not to mention the dozen guards as well. 

She looked quite the little princess in an Elegant day dress and cloak, her long blond hair pulled back and braided. The pink and grey wool and silk concoction was a beautiful design he admitted, it flattered her colouring and was a design that incorporated both the innocence of a child and the grace of a young woman. 

He approved.

But he had to admit Elka was right, he was wearing his Teshum Mutna armour, he did indeed look dour and intimidating and it was fast becoming very handy at crowd control.

People he had realised, loved the Imperial Family, they also loved the fact that Emhyr had a Royal foster daughter so when the pennants of Aedirn and Nilfgaard had trotted down the large promenade in the affluent section of the city, its citizens had come to watch.

They stayed at a respectful distance but they swamped the poor stores that Elka left as soon as she left it but he still was on guard.  

So far Elka had been into several fabric shops, and had purchased enough fabric in vibrant colours to outfit an army.  She had also been to a sweetshop and purchased a ton of sweets and chocolates.  If she was planning on imbibing them all then he was planning on running her butt all over the training ring he decided when he saw the unhealthy amount of sugar.

Now as she giggled and chatted with Anaria as the young woman pointed out several things to her, they stepped into a bookstore, he highly approved of her destination.

As she browsed the store the guards with them stationed at the door and several windows he took the time to browse as well.  

He too need a gift for Emhyr.

But what does a man get his lover who literally had the world in the palm of his hand.

As he pondered the question he randomly pulled books from the shelves, not really looking at them as he wandered deeper into the large store.

But he quickly found out that it was fraught with peril when he did that.

The book in his hand had made him choke on his own saliva when he flipped through it and his brain had finally caught up with what he actually held in his hands.

At first he thought it was another one of those manuals, but he quickly realised he was looking at a catalogue of items.

He immediately went hot under the collar and while he surreptitiously looked around to make sure the girls were nowhere near him, he flicked through a little more slowly.

And found the perfect gift.

He bought the damn catalogue and was very thankful that the girls paid him no heed as he purchased it and several other books to hide what he was buying.  

As he did, he knew without a shadow of a doubt that ordering the items in question was going to be an accomplishment in and of itself, because he had no idea how to even go about doing it.

That conversation was going to be fun he thought sourly, who to ask?

Eskel?  And get ribbed mercilessly for the next decade, he’d rather not.

Mererid? He winced, he could just imagine the look on Mererids face, the Chamberlain would order it no problem but then Geralt would always get that arch look from him.

Fainrael? He was almost as bad as Eskel, and while he was confident that Fainrael wouldn’t tell Eskel he’d rather not have Fainrael’s subtle and rather elegant jibes teasing him while he was at work.

Who? he thought, his mind dancing through a dozen different names and he came up with one that while embarrassing, Geralt was certain they had developed a friendship enough for him to help and not laugh at him.

Lanfare, with that name in mind Geralt resolved himself to go badger the healer in his lair at the earliest possible convenience.

“Geralt, what do you think? I want to send this to Baldwin.”

He looked down at the young girl who now came to his chest height as she held out a book to him, it was a beautifully crafted book on animals, particularly the ones found just south of the Yaruga.  It was detailed and scientifically precise, the paintings artfully rendered in full colour detail and he knew without a shadow of a doubt that Baldwin would love it.

He smiled, his ward was doing well at Corvo Bianco and had flourished under both Marlene and Barnabas-Basil’s care, Marlenes latest letter had detailed the cats that Baldwin had somehow managed to find and who now followed him everywhere.  

He was receiving tutoring and weekly sword lessons, he had also expressed a desire to become a major-domo as he was rather a practical young lad who understood that his life had drastically changed and he was now in charge of his future.

It had been a rather bittersweet day when they had parted, Baldwin had wanted to come, he hadn’t said so but you could see the yearning in his eyes but as Emhyr had gently pointed out, it was a political nightmare to bring Baldwin with him. Elka had pleaded to have her friend with her but even her pleas had fallen on deaf ears, Emhyr couldn’t budge on this issue.

So Elka and Baldwin had promised to write each other all the time, and it was a promise that they both had kept, sending letters to each other every month.

He handed the book back to her with a smile, “I think he would love it very much.”

She smiled at him, “so do I, I just wish I knew what to buy Emhyr.” She sighed and looked a little forlorn, “I have no idea what to get him Geralt, last year it was easy, we were on progress so Yen told me to write him a letter.”

Geralt had seen the letter, he had one a little like it. Emhyr had been sitting in front of the fire in his rooms in the fortress of Spalla, a small town in Rivia when Elka had come to say good night. She had handed him the letter and then left.

The letter had almost brought Emhyr to tears, it had been so sweet, Emhyr had denied that his eyes had misted but you couldn’t lie to a witcher, and besides he knew for a fact that the letter was wrapped in a ribbon and kept in Emhyrs personal desk. 

“But Miss Enra said that the Emperors birthday is a monumental affair,” she continued slightly panicked. “And because theres no war and he’s back in the Empire proper, its a big holiday for the people of the City.  Everyone who is important has to send something.  And as the Princess of Aedirn, I need to get him a gift, but I don’t know what.”

Geralt just smiled at her look of near panic, this he could help her with, “Elka sweetheart, you’re not the queen of Aedirn. Its not your duty to send him a gift to celebrate his birthday, thats the responsibility of those who are governing Aedirn until you’re ready.”

“Its not,” she looked at him perplexed.

“No dearest, the only thing you need to worry about is getting him something from Elka his foster daughter, not from Aedirns queen.”

She was silent for a minute, then said rather dramatically, “thats all well and good, but it still leaves me wondering what to get him.  What are you getting him Geralt?”

There was no way he was answering that question so he just told her he wasn’t sure yet, she pouted a little at the news but ultimately shrugged her shoulders and declared she would ask Ciri.

They left the bookstore shortly after that and Elka was immediately sidetracked by a curiosity shop.

Geralt wanted to sigh but followed her in, the shop was interesting, he had been in it before with Eskel and Balik.

He watched in amusement as she zipped here, there and everywhere through the shop asking some very educated questions about the items on show.

The shop was a kind of intermediary gallery, where mages, artists , alchemist and artisans could display their up and coming items, if they were bought, so be it, if not the item went back to them and they were billed for the space that they had effectively hired.

He could see magical items galore, some fine art and some beautifully crafted items done in wood and marble, metals and precious stone.  

He had stopped to admire a few things, and wonder at a few others.  Elka however had stopped in front of a wooden device that was making a ticking sound, a very methodical on time tick.  He looked at it, puzzled, it had twelve numbers in a circle, twelve at the top and then a one going down from the right. And it had two beautiful carved ivory sticks, one short and long, and a gold pendulum swinging at the base of it.  He had no idea what it could be, it was beautiful, done in black ebony wood and etched with gold and ivory but he honestly couldn’t see the value in it.

So he listened to what the proprietor was saying to Elka, it was crafted by an automata maker, but it wasn’t a toy, the man had crafted what he called was a clock, a time-teller.

He had only just made the one and it would chime on the bell, and half bell.  The proprietor also said he didn’t think there was a need for something that could tell the time, the city bells did that just fine.  

But Elka was entranced by it.

“Geralt,” she breathed, “this, I want to get -“

Geralt who knew a thing or two about haggling immediately interrupted her, “I think its perfect for Yen Elka, how much is it?”

“Eight thousand florens.” 

Geralt baulked at the price, how much? He thought and then said just that, not hiding the incredulity he felt at the price.  He then started a rousing bout of haggling that brought the thing down by almost two thousand florens.

Elka watched wide eyed, and then bounced a bit when the proprietor and Geralt shook hands on the final price, when the man asked who to send it too and how Geralt was paying, his eyes nearly bugged out of his head when Elka chirped “its for his Imperial Majesty”. She ordered that the man send the bill and the clock to the palace under Princess Varelkar’s account, she pulled out an ornate gold disk and gave it to the man.

Geralt had been given a pouch full of them, not that he had used any, he had his own money, but they were the currency used for the Imperial Family and those associated with them.  The disk was given to the proprietor and a notarised receipt was taken by one of the aids, it was then handed over to the Imperial Bursar who would finalise payment. Paid usually within three days and the item was immediately sent on to the palace, because who was going to wait for payment when the Imperial Family had just given your store patronage.

With that they left and Geralt could finally indicate to the guard that they could return home.

Elka however had given him her winning smile, the one he always found hard to say no too, and then said, much to his distress, “Can we visit the witchers?”

He sighed, yeah, this was going to be fun he thought sourly, because they all knew just what got the stench off him last night and he was certain he was in for some ribald ribbing.

He perked up, if he was lucky Tellra would say something he could take offence too and he could retaliate with his fists.  

That would always make his day.

So he gave the order to turn about and their little procession headed down the promenade towards the 1st Division headquarters.

 

————

 

Emhyr drummed his fingers into the wood of his armrest as the Minister for Public Works spoke in a monotonous tone about the build of the main roads through the north and the repair of stone and wood bridges. A project Emhyr wholeheartedly agreed with after spending over a year travelling the northern states.

Temeria and Redania were on schedule although there had been problems through Velen and a few other areas considered too wild and untamed, the army had played a crucial roll in clearing out the nekkers, drowners and harpies along the routes.  

Thanks to the witchers training there had been fewer casualties than had been expected.

The rebuild of Vizima was nearing completion and the foundations for the approved aqueduct to bring water to the city had been laid down last month, drainage systems were being built to accomodate the needs of a city.  It couldn’t come quick enough, the Northern states of Nilfgaard had no sense of cleanliness and the poorer of the populace were more than comfortable living in filth and squalor.  

It was untenable in his opinion and it would change.

Novigrads improvements were still going, as was Tretegor’s and several other cities and towns throughout the two regions.  The Nilfgaardians tasked with the undertaking were working their way quickly to bring in the much needed public works that would benefit the people.  

As the meeting wrapped up he listened as they spoke of other cities and territories next on the list and he signed off on the approval for scattered properties in the cities to be bought by the Empire, to be torn down for parks and squares.

All in all the projected budget for the rebuild of the North was in the region of three hundred and fifty million florens, a staggering amount that had originally been planned for over the next two to three decades.  But the sheer amount of wealth that the Church had possessed had meant that they could scale up the time and the process. Thus ensuring that the economy boomed in the north as the flow on effect kicked in.

Mines were opening, roads were being built, commerce was growing rapidly, farming practices were evolving, and thus the opportunities for success were exponential.  

He hadn’t thought he would see it in his reign, but in the last year there had been an overwhelming amount of money spent on Redania and Temeria, Kaedwin, Rivia and Aedirn were next.

The report from the treasury was that over four hundred billion in crowns, florens, and oren’s had been found in the Temple over six vaults, two of which had been hidden and only found with the aid of mages.  

That didn’t include the fortune in gems and antiques.  

Cassia, his chief Imperial Auditor was still stuck in Novigrad compiling the wealth that had been found.

It had blown his ministers and advisors minds, not to mention the Senate when they had heard about the horde of wealth found. It had effectively put the Empires funds into a massive surplus and many public works that had been put on hold pending funds were now in place, it was a massive boom to not only the north but the south as well.  

And Emhyr himself, as Emperor was entitled to five percent of all wealth seized in conquest and placed into his personal coffers. 

Effectively making him the richest man in the Empire, the amount that had been placed at his disposal still made him blink.

The meeting ended a full hour ahead of schedule and Emhyr stood leaving with several of his aids and Adventis, there was more to do and a meeting with his daughter to schedule.

He didn’t think he would like this meeting, Geralts suggestion to let Ciri handle the Negotiations with Orfir had been a very good one, and an obvious one too.  He knew that Ciri would see that by handing her the responsibility he was effectively telling the world her reign was near, and her ‘year’ that was supposed to be a diversion was actually going to be a year, period.

He had a feeling he was going to be yelled at.

It had been underhanded of him, but then when had he ever been fair in his reign.  He was a callous bastard who not only took what he wanted but had kept to his vision of conquest and war, and now after two decades on the throne he wanted to let it all go. 

 

She yelled at him, in fact it would be more appropriate to say she tore a strip off him, just like her mother would have, he thought proudly as she called him an underhanded asshole.

“And why are you smiling?” she snapped at him after the impressive diatribe.  They were in his personal study, and he watched her as she paced in front of him as he sat sprawled in a comfortable chair. 

“You look and sound just like your mother did when she went toe to toe with Calanthe over an issue of Cintrian Law that Calanthe ignored.”

She paused, her eyes narrowed, “don’t change the subject.”

“I’m not, you’re the one who wanted to know why I’m smiling, it’s because you have such fire in you, such a passion that is tied to your need to help others.  I am so proud of you Ciri.  Even as you stand here and berate me, I know you won’t bow your head to the Senate or to anyone who tries to control you.  My Empire, that has been held within the guardianship of var Emreis house for nearly four centuries is in hands far more capable than mine.  You are ready for this Ciri, so ready.”

He smiled as she blushed a little under the praise but she wasn’t willing to concede to him just yet, her emerald eyes still smouldered at him, “you just want Geralt to yourself you greedy ass and not have to worry about anything.”

“There is truth in that,” he said easily, “I love your foster father, and I am certainly looking forward to retiring now.” He sighed then gestured to the chair she had vacated to pace, she scowled at him but sat down. “If you had asked me six years ago if was I looking forward to retiring, I would have said no. I wasn’t looking forward to handing over my empire to a slip of a girl who was barely trained to rule, but I had a promise not only to you, but to the Senate to full fill.  Now I have something to look forward too and spending my days with Geralt is a past time I could enjoy.”

“Papa, I’m not ready, I’m really not that good a ruler yet, there is so much-” her face fell from the angry scowl to lost little girl, not a look that he had seen often on he but one that pulled at his heart, he uncrossed his legs and leant forward, taking her hand in his and capturing her gaze with his own.

“Ciri, if I had any hesitation that you were not ready then I would not allow you to take the throne, I would wait. But the last two years have shown, not only to me but to the Senate, the advisors, the Trade Corporations and the Ministers that you are ready, and that you’re no pushover.  You’re far more capable than you realise dearest and I am more than happy with how you have grown and come into your own.  You will rule well and justly, wisely and fair, but you will also come down hard on any who seek to oppose you.”

She closed her eyes, “You really think so?”

Think? He thought with an internal shake of his head, “No, I don’t think so Ciri, I know so.” He gave her a sad smile, “You will be so much more than me,” she frowned softly at him, still holding his hand. “You and I have never really talked about the beginning of my reign, I never told you but when I first took the throne, I was bitterly angry at the world. I decided that if I had to murder my way to reclaim my birthright then I would bring conquest and war to the lands until I ruled the largest Empire in the world.  My reign was not peaceful and I do not regret that I have unified the land, but I regret the loss of life that was paid to realise that dream. I regret all that I had to let go of to achieve it.  And as the years flowed on and time healed the pain and anger, I could see ways I could have achieved it without the war and sacrifice.”

She had brought her hand over to cover his and squeezed it as she listened to him and he was thankful for the chance to put into words the thoughts he had never voiced to anyone.

“I’ve done so much I’m not proud of, so much that at the time I felt was right but was very clearly wrong, there has been much pain in those decisions.  But here I am at the end of my reign and I have an Empire that has, much to my surprise, flourished by my orders to try and counteract the damage I had done.  Do you know why I decided to find you and give you the throne?” 

“Because I’m your daughter?”

“No, Morvran is my cousin the Voorhis house has been a part of the var Emreis line for three generations.  He’s a more than acceptable heir and one that I was considering to name as the Imperial Heir to the Throne. I did it not because you were my daughter but because I felt that my Empire deserved the one good thing to come from me, you.  An heir with a power like no other who would usher in a golden age to Nilfgaard.  I felt my Empire needed you to heal the land and the hearts of so many, they do not need another conqueror and I - I wanted the chance to get to know my only child.”

As she looked at him, more hope than anger in her eyes, he couldn’t help but stand up, he bent over her, cupping her face in his hands as he leant in close to her to kiss her brow.

She stood up suddenly and threw her arms around him, startling him as she burrowed her head into his shoulder.

“Thank you Papa, thank you for getting Geralt to find me, for placing your trust in me.  If you think I’m ready, I’ll do it, I’ll take the throne in twelve months.”

She leaned back to look at him, her eyes brighter and clearer, he stroked back a lock of hair from her face as her eyes went damp, “I know I haven't said this, but Ciri you are a light in my life and I love you child, more than I can say.”

Her eyes welled even further, “I love you too Papa,”she whispered as a tear fell from her eye, “you’re a manipulative bastard but I do love you.”

He gave her a grin that he often only showed Geralt, “You’re foster father tells me that on a repeated basis.”

“Of course he does, you need someone to tell you that and he’s never been shy to tell you what he thinks,” she chirped with a laugh and stepped back.  The moment over and even if they never had another moment like it again Emhyr knew that he could die tomorrow with no regrets when it came to his only child.  Not that he was planning on dying but the things that had welled up since Geralt had come into his life as his lover had needed to be aired.  There was something to be said about the fact that Geralt had done more for him and Ciri than anyone, including Geralt himself, would ever know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 14

 

Geralt had just finished a rather rousing bout of sword training first with Elka, then Ciri and then finishing off with Takara, who had made him sweat and work for it and he hadn’t won. He walked into the waiting room of the healers lair with a bounce to his step and a catalogue hidden in his leather jerkin.  The room always smelt of medicinal herbs, blood and he sniffed delicately, the scent of Rowan berries? familiar and elusive he thought a little perplexed as he tried to figure out why it was familiar. 

The room, usually held one or two patients but was empty except for a young healer he’d never met before who looked up at him from the large desk and sneered at him. “Master Lanfare is very busy, you’ll have to see the healer at the barracks and I want the name of whoever told you that the Master healer for the Emperor would see a common guard.”

Ohh, it was going to be that type of exchange he thought, he was actually starting to enjoy dropping Emhyrs name in situations like this, it was amusing to see the person scramble. 

“Emhyr var Emreis,” he replied dryly as the door to Lanfares study opened and the healer stepped out to watch what was going on, a blank and therefor rather terrifying expression on the elfs face.

The sneered deepened, “I know who the Emperor is you uneducated fool, I want to know who said that you could see Master Lanfare.” Geralt couldn’t help the smirk as Lanfare stirred at the insult, an expression as cold and amusingly enough just like Emhyrs on his handsome face, he almost felt sorry for the idiot that was clearly breaching Lanfares rules.

“He just told you Antarin, Emhyr var Emreis ordered him to see me when needed, as the Emperors bodyguard and his love, sir Geralt has every right to be here.  In fact it is a right that everyone in the palace has whether guard, servant or high born lord. You boy, have no right to turn anyone away who seeks my aid, in this case Geralt is also a friend.” The man spun around at the sound of Lanfares voice and had gone as white as a noonwraiths shroud.  

Lanfare levelled his grey eyes at Antarin and then to Geralts amusement launched into an impressive tirade that had cowled the pompous healer in no time flat. He ended it with one hand pointing to the door, “get out of my sight for the rest of the day and reflect on just what you want from your time stationed here.  I can train you to be a healer or I can train you to hold the vomit bowl.”

Antarin bolted for the door and was past Geralt quicker than a nekker could jump, “very impressive, and as someone who has been on the end of your yelling I must say, you were never as harshly spoken with me,” Geralt said with amusement as the door slammed shut behind him.

Lanfare smiled, “You were a patient and a reluctant one at that, but you were not a healer who works under my direction.  I hold idiocy in contempt Geralt, although you were rather idiotic in your attempts to overuse your body when it needed to heal, you only ever did it once,” he gestured to Geralt to come into his office, Geralt stepped into the large examination room, full of smells and herbs, medical implements and things that looked like they belonged in a torturers chamber.  But it was clean, very clean, and it was comfortable.

Lanfare picked up a delicate teapot and poured him a cup of tea, adding honey to it he handed it to Geralt who took it with a murmured thanks.

He didn’t drink tea by choice but he had to admit Lanfare brewed the most drinkable hot leaf juice he had ever had, sweet and light not bitter and heavy.

“Now what did you do this time.”  He heard the tease as Lanfare sat down at his desk, angled to face Geralt and crossing his legs as he did.

“Couldn’t I come and see a friend?”

“By all means, its good to have your company, its been a slow day today, oh by the way I believe you know my newest healer.”

“You mean the one you showed out the door?” He queried, puzzled, he didn’t know the idiot healer from a bar of soap.

“No, I’m sent two healers every year as an exchange, Antarin was chosen by the Surgeons Assembly but I get to choose the second.  I was fascinated by the papers the Surgeon healer Shani Laudrin wrote for the academy at Oxenfurt. Her work on monster poisons and the use of silver powder to cleanse wounds made by claws and fangs has been put to the test in field hospitals with incredible results.  She also created a unique glue that holds bandages to the skin thus saving meters of fabric which has been very much appreciated in places where bandages are in short supply.  I invited her here to work under me, she accepted and arrived yesterday.”

“Shani’s here?” He blurted out, surprised. Although it wasn’t that much of one, she was a very good surgeon and Eskel had told him how good she had been in Rinde, impressing Fainrael with her knowledge on a few matters, looks like she had impressed more than just Fainrael. 

He smiled delighted that she was doing so well for herself, “you’re lucky to have her,” he told Lanfare and meant it, “she’s a very talented healer, a battle hardened surgeon and incredibly practical.”

“You don’t need to convince me my friend, her resume did that.  You just missed her actually, she had a tour of the healers quarters and is currently being taken to the Surgeons Assembly to meet several of the members who wanted to talk to her.  I did tell her you were living her now and she said she wanted to catch up with you when your duties permit.”

Geralt agreed with Lanfare and then he had a chuckle, “I’d better let Emhyr know, although its not likely she’ll try and kill him like his former lover tried with me.”  Emhyr wasn’t a jealous lover, he didn’t think he would be at any rate, it wasn’t like he was trying to rekindle anything with her, but honesty and truth was the foundation that they had decided to grow their relationship with.

Lanfare chuckled, “no I doubt it, she and her husband both travelled to Nilfgaard.”

That was news, he thought astonished and happy for her.  She deserved someone good in her life.  

He didn’t quiz Lanfare anymore about her, preferring to ask Shani herself when they met up, so he and Lanfare fell into the easy camaraderie that they had found during the Progress.

He drank his tea and they chatted about how he was finding his feet amid the Court, Geralt grimaced and told him that he wasn’t liking the double meaning behind everything but he was getting there.

“It was naive of Emhyr to think that he could shield you from it, as his lover you’re firmly front and centre.”

“I figured that bit out the other day, and I’m not going to either play their games or let them use me, so they can bloody well shove it or I’ll do it for them.  Trust me they won’t like it when I shove back.”

“Oh I do wish to be around when you do shove back” said Lanfare with a chuckle, “they won’t know how to take it.”

Geralt finished the last of his tea and then reached in to pull out the catalogue, knowing the blush that was now starting to shine across his cheeks would give him away.

The elf took one look at what he held in his hand and arched one elegant silver brow.

“Shopping Geralt?”

“Haha,” he said sourly, “I don’t know how to order out of these things,” the laughter in those grey eyes made him sigh but he took it, it was better than Eskels ribbing.

“You could have circled everything you wanted and given the catalogue to Mererid, he would have done the rest.

“Yeah but then I’d have to suffer that look of his for the rest of his life.”

“So you thought I would help? thank you for coming to me.  It’s relatively easy to order them.”

Lanfare didn’t tease him, he showed Geralt what to do, didn’t even ask him what he wanted to order and then instructed him to give the catalogue to Mererid in an envelope with the address on it to follow up on. “Mererids used to this Geralt, Emhyr, as you’re well aware by now is very adventurous in bed, and creative, his chamberlain has had to order and receive anything that Emhyr has decided he wanted to try out.  Mererid will send the catalogue, marked by the Palace Seal so it will be sent quickly and returned just as quick.”

Geralt nodded his head, sounded painless he thought as he tucked it back into his leather Jerkin, then stood. The bells had rung the midday toll, which meant lunch would be served soon, Emhyr, that morning had said he wanted Geralts company at lunch.  

“Thanks Lanfare,”

“Your most welcome Geralt, thank you for the chat, I’m glad that your starting to find your feet here now.”

“Thanks, wouldn’t have been able to do it so easily if it wasn’t for the friends I’ve made here,” he said with a smile at him.

Lanfare walked him to the door and then opened it to let Geralt out, Geralt paused, the question that had been bugging him for the last two weeks rearing its head. There wouldn't be a more perfect time to ask it.

“Lanfare?”

“Yes.”

“You and Takara? Ahh, hows -“ he paused suddenly very embarrassed.  And truth was, he really didn’t want to know the answer to it.

Lanfare smiled mysteriously at Geralt, “Geralt, a gentleman doesn’t kiss and tell, but I will say this because I can see the concern in your eyes. What Takara and I have is not the love you and Emhyr have for each other.  It is based purely on admiration, respect and desire.  Its not forever and it will be over sooner rather than later, fond memories and friendship will be all that remains. Not quite unlike yourself with the lovers of your past.”

Geralt blinked, okay that had answered his question but by the blessed gods of above and below, it opened up a whole heap more. Ones he wasn’t going to ask.

“Ah, right. Thanks for being so honest about it though, I just wanted to be sure that you both knew what you were doing.”

Lanfare smiled gently at him, “She isn’t human Geralt, neither is she elven.  Her thoughts and beliefs on this are vastly different and she was very forthright about it. I went in knowing that and I am not in danger of falling in love with her.”

Geralt nodded his head, relieved that Lanfare wasn’t going to get hurt, or Takara for that matter.

He left then with a goodbye and a wave, he pointedly didn’t say enjoy yourself to Lanfare, not when they had just been talking about a subject that he wanted to bury his head in the sand over.

 

———

 

As Geralt strolled into the dining room in the Emperors quarters he came to a sudden and complete stop, his eyes widening as he did.

He swallowed hard, his mouth dry at the same time his cock rose with a leap that was actually painful for all of two seconds until he untied the laces in his codpiece to give himself more room.

When Emhyr had said he wanted Geralts company for lunch he didn’t think Emhyr had meant that he would be lunch.

How kinky could his imperial lover get he thought wildly as his mouth suddenly caught up with what he was seeing and salivated.

“Your expression is well worth the potential embarrassment,” his lover purred from where he was artfully draped on cushions spread out over the long ornate table. “But do close the door Geralt, while I did order my rooms vacated for this little display there is the possibility that someone might just see.”

Geralt shut the door, his mind still trying to come to grips with what he was seeing, “It certainly wouldn’t do for anyone but me to see the Emperor dressed in edible delicacies and served up on a proverbial silver platter. Naked.”

Emhyr just gave him a seductively delicious smile, and then gestured to Geralt with a crooked finger.

Geralt stepped forward tugging at the buttons on his doublet as he raked his eyes over Emhyr, he was casually draped over the cushions, and an assortment of tiny delicacies sat perched in various places.  On his hip - the exact spot Geralt liked to nibble on, his stomach - right in that patch of hair Geralt loved to bury his nose in, and there in his belly button was a sweet, oh Melitiles graceful bounty he all but moaned. There was a fig leaf covering the most important part, with tiny cut fruit in an artful assortment.  Around Emhyr were platters of more food and dipping sauces, a veritable feast had been laid out before Geralt.

As he gazed at Emhyr in almost reverent hunger, he remembered a conversation in Novigrad, ”You fucking planned this from the moment I said you first,” he breathed at Emhyr and he gave up on trying to undo the buttons on his doublet and just tore it off.

Emhyr chuckled softly at his expression and his actions, his own gaze told Geralt he knew what Geralt had meant, and obviously remembered every detail.

Geralt had been perusing that bloody black book, surreptitiously reading it while he was taking a rest after he’d used Ieysu. He had been that focused on the page in front of him he hadn’t actually heard Emhyr come up behind him until Emhyr had said, “ohh yes, most certainly Geralt.  I would love to see you spread out on a silver platter for my delectation just like that.”

He had jumped a full foot in his chair and slammed the book shut with a curse and Emhyr had given him a husky laugh. Then his lovers hand had then suddenly fisted Geralts hair and pulled his head back while he’d leaned down from behind and whispered, “just for me, you bared upon my table, with the most delicate of delicacies gracing your skin. I would dine on you Geralt, become drunk on the taste and scent of you.  I would revel in you, in every lick, every nibble of your skin, that sweet and salty tang that is so uniquely yours.”

Geralt had panted under the images that Emhyr had given him, but he’d been too embarrassed at being found out reading that book so he’d rasped,”the only way you’re getting me on a table like that is if you do it first.”

Emhyr had let his hair go and trailed his finger tips over the side of Geralts neck, he then came into view, he’d had a thoughtful expression on his face, “be careful witcher,” was all he’d said.

“Be careful witcher - you might just get what you asked for,” Emhyr purred at him, his eyes a dark brown, heated and decadent pools of sun warmed whiskey.

Oh fuck, Geralt thought, there was no way he was going to not partake in Emhyrs generosity, he had his undershirt off in record time, but kept his pants on. 

He stepped up to the table and focused on those lips that loved to tease him, and keep a promise, they were stained with wine. He didn’t hesitate but took them in a kiss that tasted of home and a sexual heat that made his blood burn.

Geralt quickly realised, when Emhyr hadn’t reached for him, that his feast really couldn’t move, he’d upset the careful placement of his little delicacies, so Geralt perched his hip on the table and licked the wine trail that had traveled down Emhyrs throat to follow it to his first bite to eat.

And feast he did.

He ate tiny little bites of carefully prepared meats and savoury pastries, little scoops of delicate seafoods in tasty sauces, and underneath the taste flowed Emhyr. 

His essence such a sexual, sensual presence on his tongue that Geralt was so completely addicted to him. 

As Geralt came further down his feast Emhyr would take the tidbits from the platters around him and feed him, dipping them into sauces to change the complexity of the taste.  And Geralt chased those flavours, trailing his fingers through the sauces and then over the heated skin of his lover, quickly followed by his tongue.

He made Emhyr moan.

And when he focused on the spots that he knew so well, the places that made Emhyr ask for more. Geralts own desire sung to hear Emhyr cry out for more.

He made Emhyr beg.

And he let his fingers trail lower, hunting for the place that was all soft and tight clasp, heat and wet pleasure. He found it and gloried in Emhyrs deep groan of true pleasure.

He made Emhyr whimper.

As he bit and sucked the tender spot where Emhyrs neck met his shoulder, his fingers moved deep to dance across that spot deep within.  Geralt sighed into Emhyrs mouth as Emhyr jerked in his arms.

He didn’t care for the food, he didn’t care about the mess, he let his senses open to their fullest and drunk on the taste, the feel and the joy of having Emhyr as his.

He watched, his amber eyes narrowed with concentration as Emhyr writhed beneath him, lost in a sexual haze, Geralts name tumbling from his lips. 

And he was beautiful.  

Geralt felt it down to the very core of his being.

And finally, as Emhyr came shuddering, screaming his passion, a sight Geralt had never seen before, Geralt slid into the deep decadent heat of Emhyrs willing body.

He waited as Emhyr came back to him, his shivering body highly sensitised to Geralts touch.

“G-Geralt, please, no more.”

“Shhh my heart, beloved of my soul, you can do it, once more,” Geralt murmured in Emhyrs ear as he moved to cage him in his arms.

Emhyr shakily moved his arms to hold onto Geralt’s shoulders as Geralt whispered all that Emhyr meant to him, he wondered at the soft sobs that fell from Emhyrs lips as he told him just how much he loved him.

When he felt Emhyr tighten around him, he reached out and brushed the sweat wet black hair from Emhyrs face, looking deep into those ecstasy glazed eyes, he knew deep down that he was ready.

“Once more,” he whispered on those reddened lips and then he moved.  Emhyr let his head fall back as his mouth opened in a silent cry of pleasure, and Geralt chased it with his mouth, taking Emhyrs mouth in a hard kiss that was exactly what Geralt was doing to Emhyrs body.

He thrust his cock deep and hard into Emhyrs ass, gasping at the hot heat and the tight clamping that Emhyr did whenever he touched that spot of pure and utter ecstasy.

He took Emhyr higher and higher, diving his body and his need to sheer impossible heights, moving with him one snap of his hip at a time and with a heated caress of his own over Emhyrs hard cock.

It was fast, it was deep and it was glorious and as Emhyr cried out for more, begging Geralt to take him harder, deeper to the point when Geralt finally pushed them over the very precipice he had been driving them towards.

They came together, their passion filled cries of desire and heat filled the room as Emhyr spilled himself over Geralts hand and Geralt came deep within Emhyrs ass, his battled hardened body relaxing as the pleasure roared through him.

 

 

Emhyr stirred silently, his body so boneless and relaxed that it didn’t feel like his own and he managed a weak groan.

Geralt, who had all but collapsed on top of Emhyr responded by reaching out a sticky hand and taking his own in it, “you wrecked me Geralt,” Emhyr muttered.

“The feelings entirely mutual Emhyr,” Geralts deep passionate rasp sent shivers down Emhyrs spine and a stir in his cock that he didn’t need right now. 

He shifted and grimaced, lifting his head to survey what he could, he winced, by the Great Sun - bath he thought blearily, they needed a bath.

Now.

But he was too worn out to care, he heard the bells toll two and sighed, he had a meeting in an hour, he had to get up.

But he found he really didn’t care about it.  

It was Geralt who prodded them up, he rose from Emhyr with a groan and a curse, rolling off him to sit up on the edge of the table, Emhyr raised an eyebrow as he took in Geralts torn and ripped pants, he hadn’t noticed Geralt doing that.  Geralt looked over his shoulder and Emhyr saw those amber eyes widen, and his lips press tight to stifle a laugh.

He narrowed his eyes at Geralts mirth, “what?”

“Ohh you fussy cat, let’s get you into a bath before you see yourself.”

Emhyr muttered as Geralt helped him to his feet, his muscles still feeling like liquid warmth and he paused at the feeling of sticky sauces and cool things sliding down his skin.

He really didn’t want to look down, but he did.

And then levelled a scowl at Geralt that made the other man burst into laughter, he reached out his sticky hand and ruffled Emhyrs hair, “bath I said my heart, you’ll feel better after a bath. And a promise is a promise - when you feel like it, let me know when you want to feast off me.”

Emhyrs mind skewed off topic at those words and a feeling of warmth suffused his belly.  Oh Geralt, he thought, thats a promise I have every intention of making you keep.

He let his lover put his robe on and together they left the dining room for the bath chamber, Emhyrs mind awhile with just what he planned to do to Geralt when Geralt was on the table.

But all good things come to those who wait, he reminded himself, he would feast on Geralt, when his witcher least expected it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 Chapter 15

 

Two weeks later 

 

Emhyr flicked his left wrist, fixing the gold button on the cuff of his black and red tunic that had come undone as he waited for Mererids announcement.

Court was in session and he was obligated to oversee it and handle the affairs brought to him by those who had requested an audience.

Requesting an audience was a privilege that any true born citizen of Nilfgaard proper could utilise, however the Emperors judgement was final and if the matter trivial in nature Emhyr had a propensity to be very harsh in his judgement.

Not many wanted his judgement now, it saved him the headache.

Today however he was sitting in judgement of Farziel Creighvon, former high priest of the Church of Eternal Fire and mastermind of the plot to overthrow the stability that was being established in Redania.  That plot had led to the fall of the Church, now an outlawed and banned religion whose dogma which incited hatred towards the peoples of other races and to those who used magic had fuelled the witch hunts of the past.  He had not only outlawed its practice, he had issued a law that condemned those who worshiped it still to death, by burning at the stake.

A harsh but needed punishment, and not as used as one would think, by bringing in the Great Sun he had given those who found inner peace in faith something other than hatred to worship.  It had had a profound affect on the city of Novigrad and its surrounds.  So much so that the Great Suns worship was spreading at a rapid rate through the north and the Church here was having a difficult time keeping up with the movement.

He did not consider that to be a bad thing, it was in his belief one of the better deeds of his reign.

He straightened up as the fanfare sounded and stepped out of the alcove, Mererid intoning his name and titles as he walked to his throne, passing his daughter as he did and sat down.

He did however give a slight wink to Geralt as he went to sit, his lover was standing to the left of his throne as his bodyguard in that rather intimidating black armour the witcher liked to wear for these events.  Emhyr had noticed that when Geralt wore it, the audiences were shorter, and if it was because of that foreboding effect the armour had he was all for Geralt wearing it whenever he pleased.

Emhyr flicked his hand towards Adventis who bowed, and ordered that the prisoner be brought in.

Farziel Creighvon was dragged in by four guards, two having hooked him under the arms, and two more by holding his leg chains, he had to be carried in as he was bound so he couldn’t move.  His head was thrown back and a heretics fork was in place, a two pronged bi-ended fork that would stab him in the chest or the chin if he moved his head down, as a form of restraint it was very effective.  

It wasn’t the most gruesome of procedures done to the former high priest, he had been worked on by Emhyrs torturers for the last few weeks, sometimes on a daily basis, sometimes not, and all of it designed to degrade and hurt the person who was being punished.  

All in all they dragged a broken, scarred and bruised man before him.

As his Prison guards stopped in front of him they put Creighvon down in a kneeling position and undid the fork. They stepped back but six of his own Impera Brigade stepped forward in a half circle, their halberds pointed down at Creighvon as he tiredly bowed his head to Emhyr.

Emhyr held out his hand and Adventis passed him a leather folder, a copy to the one that he held and Emhyr opened it. 

The confession signed by Creighvon and the charges brought against him.  

It was a comprehensive tale, one that had been extracted from the priest over the last few weeks.

Creighvon had served the Church of the Eternal Fire all of his life, he was born into the service and had worked his way up to Hierarch Hemmelfart’s side as his second in command. 

He was considered to have been a bright and devoted man, young for his position and therefore a visionary, his vision had cost the clergy dearly.

He had confessed to the burnings as a way to curb Nilfgaards influence.  

He had confessed to sedition, and trying to incite rebellion against Nilfgaard.  

He had confessed to counselling Hemmelfart against telling their southern overseers about the Veloë Tuvaen, a violation of the Treaty signed by the Hierarch.

He had confessed to the murder and rape of men and women who had been kidnapped and sold to the Church, the women raped and then murdered by throwing them to the Veloë Tuvaen.

He had Confessed to attempted Genocide in the plan to unleash the Veloë Tuvaen to slaughter the citizens of Novigrad. 

And the most damning of all under Nilfgaards law, he had confessed to High Treason, the attempted regicide of the Emperor of Nilfgaard by the same plan in unleashing those monsters on the City.

Adventis read out the list in its considerable entirety and while those gathered to watch todays Court Session knew to a general degree what had happened in Novigrad 2 years ago, they didn’t know everything.

They did now. 

And they were exceedingly angry, it was quite satisfying really to know that his nobles were angry on his behalf, the adage ‘whats done to one is done to all’ was the root of much of Nilfgaards response to the world, never mind their internal politics though.

The confession also dealt with the nearly twenty months that it had taken for him to be brought to Nilfgaard to face Imperial Justice. He hadn’t spent that time reflecting on his sins, he had ran with thieves and murderers, and tried to find someway to bring Emhyr down. Creighvon had named everyone who had given him shelter fully knowing who he was, the list wasn’t long but it did hold the names of nobles belonging to several of Redania’s most influential families.

Emhyr had already given the order to hunt them down and have those responsible for aiding a fugitive of such importance to the empire taken into custody.

Nilfgaards Justice knew no mercy either, he would ensure that those who had hidden Creighvon, regretted it to their dying day, it would be his last true act in keeping Nilfgaard safe as its Emperor.

As Adventis finished off the list of crimes, the methods of torture used to extract a truthful confession and the potions and mage craft involved, Emhyr flicked through the reports, one question hadn’t been asked he realised, one he wanted answer too.

“Creighvon,” he said in the silence, his powerful voice filling the room with command and authority, “why did you go to Kaer Morhen?”

Such a simple question, it should have been asked but it had been overlooked.  Creighvon lifted his head wearily, blinking at the movement, he didn’t answer.

One of the guards who had brought Creighvon in step forward, a whip raised but Emhyr waved him off and smiled.

It wasn’t a nice smile, the nobles near him actually flinched to see it, “I have no compunction in turning you over to Lady Ayakashi to get that answer, you did after all invade her home.”

Creighvon jerked at the promise and everyone heard the dark and very satisfied chuckle from above. The laugh made Creighvon curl in on himself, and a dark wet stain spread out from the front of his pants and onto the floor.

Wonderful, Emhyr thought with disgust, he’d pissed himself in fear, and right on the grave of Emhyrs fathers usurper, which was rather fitting actually. 

Emhyr looked up, so did most of those gathered to see Takara Ayakashi sitting in the high gallery along with the upper echelons of the nobles, he had known she was up there, she often sat there if she was observing.

“Is that acceptable Lady Takara?”

She stood up from her seat and stepped up to the balcony, placing one hand on the balustrade, “Most certainly, I too wish to know why my home was invaded by him,” She flexed her hand and her claws lengthened.

“No, no, I’ll tell you.” Creighvon said, panicked at the thought of her, Emhyr wondered what she had done to him to get that response, “I went because I wanted to find evidence against the witchers, something to sway the hearts of the people away from you and the filth Nilfgaard associates itself with.” Creighvon found his backbone and he found his voice, he looked up at Emhyr and the burning gaze of a fanatic pierced him. “You consort with demons, fornicate and sodomise with freaks and men.” He spat the words with concentrated vehemence and continued, “You call creatures foul and evil friend, you think elves and dwarves deserve rights.  The people of the north will see that and the Fire of Eternity will cleanse the lands.  Your days are numbered Emhyr var Emreis you and the spawn of sin you fathered.  And the mutated death dealers will lead it to you.”

Emhyr had had enough, he lifted a finger off the arm rest, and one of the guards slammed the butt of his halberd into Creighvons back, smashing into his kidney with enough force to have the man on the floor in a pile, moaning in agony.

“Well thats certainly amusing, and so is this.  For the crimes listed this day against you Farziel Creighvon you have been found guilty by your own words and your own confession.  I hear by sentence you to death by Scaphism.” He paused to let that sink in, a few of the nobles murmured at the pronouncement, nodding there heads in agreement. Emhyr ignored them and continued, “You will suffer the punishment for as long as you live, and I am very motivated to ensure you live day by day, your sentence will be carried out midday tomorrow and you will hang within your wooden cage at the northern gate. Your crimes will be read out to all who enter the Golden City and any who wish to torment you by throwing rotten food at you will be allowed.  It will help feed the bugs.  Your death will not be quick, it will be agonising. And may you find Mercy in the belief of your debunked eternal fire because Nilfgaard will give you none.”

Emhyr had already resolved himself against this sentence, he was not going to offer Imperial Mercy to Creighvon, a first for him in his reign.  The man would go through the sentence in its entirety.

There was not a sound at his pronouncement but the hatred in Creighvons eyes gave way to true terror.  Creighvon had been there when the murderer Cleese had been prepared for the sentence of scaphism, he had been there when the man had been paraded around the city, including the Temple every three days, his crimes against Nilfgaard called out.  Creighvon had seen just how horrifying and gruesome an execution scaphism was, particularly when the box was opened at the end and the corpse taken through the city once more.

“No, you always offer mercy” he screeched, .

“Not this time, and not for you. Take him away and prepare him for his execution.”

 The guards did just that, and Creighvon begged.  Begged to be killed quickly, to be hung, beheaded, anything but that.

And Emhyr ignored it all, turning to speak to Adventis about a matter of state as the vocal former high priest was dragged from the throne room, as Creighvon was taken away from Emhyr he felt relief, the Novigrad matter was done.  

The church gone.

And he allowed himself a smile, who would have thought that the Churches rebellion could have so drastically changed his life.  The matter had brought Geralt into his life in a way he had never expected, it had given him a firm friendship in Takara and a foster daughter who he had grown to love as his own.  And now it was over. 

Finally.

With that done, the court seemed to breathe a collective sigh and Emhyr looked to Adventis, Court was in now session and it had only just started.

Mererid bowed and intoned the name and rank of a small trading partnership, the two individuals and their legal representatives step forward, and Emhyr wanted to growl. This matter, a dispute between the two had disrupted several important trade agreements and angered a large trade group, it had been settled by the Legal Courts and then Ciri.  Now it seemed the two had decided to bring it to him.

Well then he thought, lets see if they like my judgement on the matter. 

Something however told him, they most certainly wouldn’t.

 

———

 

Geralt relaxed in the bathing pool of delicious hot water, soaking the days worries away. Not that he had many worries but the water did feel fantastic.

He was waiting for Emhyr to join him, his love had said he had one more report to finish but to go ahead and await him, so Geralt had done just that .

He heard the door open but a short sharp squeal of delight had him popping open his eyes to see a black haired little boy frantically stripping off his clothing.

Looks like he had company he thought ruefully as Haru all but dive bombed into the bath, Takara had taken Haru away from the palace that afternoon fo a hunt, just after the judgement of Creighvon. She must have come to inform Emhyr they were back, she refused to send a servant to do a task that she herself could do.

He focused on the boy as he waded about the pool and then nabbed him as he paddled past, “I have no idea what you were frolicking in kiddo but you have more leaves and twigs in your hair than a berry bush has on its branches.”

Haru just giggled at him but sat on the bench in front of Geralt and let Geralt comb the refuse out of his hair, “Hahaue and I caught a griffin,” He declared proudly.

“Oh thats good, was it killing humans?”

“No it was in the mountains but Hahaue was hungry,” 

Geralt paused with a blink and then resumed picking out the twigs, Takara ate a Griffin? he thought to himself with a bit of shock.

“Although she doesn’t like feathers, they get stuck in her teeth,” continued the kit and Geralt had a hard time trying not to laugh at the image of Takara with a mouth full of feathers, then he realised something that should have been glaringly obvious.  If she was hungry enough to eat a griffin she was probably in her true form.  The nine tailed fox that he had only ever seen once before.

“Was it tasty?” He asked, genuinely curious, he’d never had eaten a griffin and Haru nodded his head

“Hahaue doesn’t like grass eaters, she says they taste like dirt but she likes meat eaters so she kills them to eat. She also doesn’t like her dinner cooked, why is that Geralt?”

And that there answered a seven hundred year old question, what did Takara eat? the witchers knew she ate it raw when she ate with them, which was a rare occurrence, and that she would eat a bit of fruits and berries.  

So she preferred the meat of a carnivore, how interesting, but he answered Haru’s question, “preference maybe, you like it cooked do you?”

“I like it, but I like it raw too, and I also like crickets, oh and frogs, frogs taste like chicken but they’re crunchier and they don’t have feathers.”

Geralt who had finished the twigs and leaves in Haru’s hair had reached out to grab some soap to wash the kit but paused at the confession.

And couldn’t help but wonder.

“Does Takara like frogs and crickets?” He asked mildly, because if she did he was going to go down to the nearest river and go frog hunting, as a gift mind you, never mind the ass kicking she would give him.

“Stars that guide and guard, no. I do not like insects or frogs - or worms for that matter,” growled a voice from the door and Geralt looked over to see Emhyr and Takara, Takara simply pointed at Haru and said, “what were my instructions Haru while I spoke with Emhyr?”

Haru sighed and hunched his shoulders a bit, “go downstairs and wait for me.”

Geralt saw Takara raise her head slightly and look to the ceiling, obviously asking what ever benevolent being that answered the prayer of kitsune for help.  Emhyr pressed his lips, trying not to laugh at the boy and the situation.

Takara looked back down, “So why do I now find you in the bath with Geralt?”

“I just wanted to say hello.”

“And you thought that hello means getting into the bath?” Takara replied a little baffled.

“No,” said Haru gloomily, then he perked right up and looked over to Takara, “but Geralt gives the best washes, he scrubs in all the right places.”

“Does he now.” Takara said musingly, a smug expression on her face, and a light in her eyes that Geralt didn’t like to see.

Yeah he was doomed, thought Geralt as he watched Emhyr as it was his turn to look at the ceiling, Geralt looked up just to make sure that nothing had changed up there, nothing had and Emhyr looked like he was about to burst a kidney from not laughing.

“Yes, he’s even better than Emhyr and Mererid, and you Hahaue.”

“I’m blaming you Geralt, its your fault that Haru likes baths so much, and whoever heard of a kitsune liking baths?  I can’t keep him out of the bath half the time, Haru - Geralt can bathe you today.”

Yep, doomed, thought Geralt as he just sighed, Emhyr broke and started to laugh, he turned around though and walked back into the bedroom so Geralt couldn’t growl at him.   He also couldn’t turn Takara down, he just grabbed for the soap and cloth.  Then without a by your leave to the kit he soaped up the cloth and then started on his hair, and Ciri was right, those ears were too damn cute.

Takara left following Emhyr leaving Geralt to the chatty little boy who spoke about his hunt with pride and happiness, he had brought down a wolf he declared proudly.

Geralt gaped at the back of the boys head at that one, Haru in his true form was the size of a house cat and he had brought down a wolf?

And more importantly Takara had let him, was he missing something he thought, Takara was so damn protective but she just let the boy take on a wolf.

“Why did you kill a wolf?” He asked, his voice a bit strained.

“Hahaue said it was good practice, so I used my claws and got behind it, I took its heart out just like Hahaue taught me.”

Great merciful gods, she had taught the kid to rip a wolfs heart out with his hands, thats it he thought, his mind was done with that conversation.

He rinsed Haru’s hair and told the boy to stand up so he could scrub him, Haru just whined and complained that he was doing it wrong when he started to lather him up.

“Then how am I supposed to do it?” He asked patiently, Haru changed into a fox and Geralt got it.  He scrubbed in all the right places he thought, remembering that he’d only ever given the boy a bath when he was Coal and Coal managed to smell up the place like a wet rat.

The first half a dozen times he had bathed the fox hadn’t been fun, it had been a fight actually, the first two times the fox had come back smelling like he’d rolled in something dead, so he’d been bathed again.  Geralt had been quite suspicious when the fox had stopped doing it really quickly when he had been re-bathed several times, now he knew it was because Haru was more than just a beast.

The bath was an exercise in patience, he had scratches from claws in places a man shouldn’t have scratches, because apparently foxes kicked like a dog when they were happy.  They were done after he had scratched Haru’s backside at the kits very vocal demand. To which he got a wet tail thumped into his face for his troubles, he quickly washed himself and then got out to dry the two of them off, which meant he got the shower when Haru shook himself.

He dressed himself, thankful that Haru at least was already dressed in fur, damp fur at that but they both went into the bedroom to get to the living area.

Takara and Emhyr were seated before the large fireplace, chatting. Emhyr had a sheathed sword over his lap and a glass of wine in his hand.

Takara was drinking something, he couldn’t quite figure it out, but there was a glass of red waiting near the chair next to Emhyr.  Haru did a happy dance, trying to chose which lap to invade and then decided that Emhyr needed to be rumpled so sat his wet backside next to him.

“Haru, change kit, you’ve spent enough time in that form.”

Haru immediately did so, sans the clothing and a sigh from Takara was all the reminder the boy needed to put clothes on, Geralt didn’t think the boy was doing it on purpose, he just truly didn’t remember that he must be clothed.

It had become a thing over the last few weeks, much to Geralt and Emhyrs amusement.

“Emhyr, I killed a wolf.” The boy stated proudly and Geralt had to admit Emhyr took the proud declaration in stride.

“You killed a wolf? Was that your first kill?”

“Yes, it was my first kill in the half-form, I pulled its heart out.”

Emhyr looked at Takara, clearly concerned, so was Geralt.

She smiled, her eyes alight with pride as she looked at Haru, “Kitsune children are taught from a young age to kill their prey in both forms. If Haru had been raised properly he would already know this, and while he can kill in the true form he hasn’t been taught to kill in the half form, he has a bit of catching up to do.”

“But a wolf?”

“Why not?, he was in no danger, a wolf is trivial even to a child.”

She said it so completely unconcerned that it was a wake up call to both Geralt and Emhyr, Haru acted like a rambunctious and precocious child but he was a predator through and through.

And Takara was raising him to be what she was.

“So Geralt, did you get a gift for Emhyr? He showed me the time-teller that Elka gave him, I am most curious about its design.”

“I got him a gift, and if you hadn’t come I would have given it to him.”

“Ohhh,” she purred, a teasing quality to her voice, “is it a secret gift?”

Geralt went bright red, and he saw Emhyr give his undivided attention to him, his brown eyes not curious but knowing.  And judging by the glow in them, very approving.

“Yes and thats all I’m saying.”

“We got him a sword, I wanted to give him my wolf pelt but Hahaue said that it wouldn’t be cured in time.” Saved by the kid thought Geralt with profound relief.  Haru had just made up for invading his bath with that one statement.

Emhyr picked up the sheathed blade and handed it to him, “by the same elven grandmaster that created Balik of Kaer Serin’s blade,” he said smugly.

 Baliks silver sword was an incredible work of functional art and was coveted by every witcher who had ever lived in the last two hundred years.

Geralt all but salivated when he pulled the blade from its sheath and after inspecting it with a covetous eye he reverently put it back and looked at Emhyr.

“You can’t have it,” was all Emhyr said to him.

He turned incredulous amber eyes to Takara, who merely raised an eyebrow at him, “you have enough blades.”

He groaned, “that ain’t fair.”

“It is as it is Geralt,” she murmured back to him and then she finished her drink and stood up, “Haru, we must leave, Emhyr and Geralt need their sleep.”

“They don’t sleep Hahaue, not at first, they mate.”  The kits said it so matter of factly that it took Geralt a second to realise what he heard had indeed been spoken by a boy who looked about six. Emhyr got to spray his wine out his nose, and Geralt had never in all the years of his life seen Takara so completely taken aback. She gaped at her kit, for a full two glorious seconds and it was so worth the embarrassment he thought.

“Kit, thats not a topic humans discuss in company,” she managed to stutter out.

“Oh why not? Its just mating Hahaue,” the boy said with a shrug. 

Emhyr cleared his throat then blew his nose, clearly as embarrassed as Takara was and then looked at Haru, “this is one of those things that is private to a human Haru.”  

“Fine,” the boy said with a sigh, “although I don’t see why its private, you can hear it everywhere, I mean humans don’t have a mating cycle, just like rabbits, and when you looked after me too you and Geralt always -“

“Haru, enough, please child,” Takara said with a bit of desperation, “you and I will discuss this tonight, but not now.”  She pointed to the door, “our rooms please Ha-chan,” Haru looked at them all, a serious expression on his face, then bowed to them. He left quite quickly and takara didn’t say a thing, listening for a moment then she looked at the two of them, “I apologise, his curiosity hasn’t been tempered with human social norms.”

“Takara it’s fine, its just a bit disconcerting having that spoken about by a child, but I suppose with a kitsunes hearing he can hear everything,” said Emhyr quite calmly, and Geralt suddenly went red, oh gods, he thought, he hadn’t even considered a kitsunes hearing.  She could hear everything, the very knowledge in that made his blood turn hot and cold at the same time.  How bloody embarrassing, he was never having sex again.

“I have aural shields in place in our rooms but Haru’s been around humans long enough, lived with them long enough to have gained an education, but not yet an understanding. I’ll speak to him to night.”

Emhyr nodded his head, “children often ask and state the most embarrassing things, reminds me of the time that Ciri outed the Margrave of Litwine having an affair with one of Calanthe’s ladies in waiting.  She was four and in public asked Calanthe why would the Margrave be hurting Lady Lissa.  It was quite the scandal as he was seventy something and she was only nineteen.” 

Geralts snorted at that, he could see the precocious little brat doing just that.

Takara chuckled, “I could tell you some hair raising stories about witchers and their shenanigans,” She replied, “but maybe another day so that Geralt doesn’t have an apoplexy.”

Geralt just groaned, and stayed in his seat as Emhyr rose to escort Takara to the balcony door, “thank you for the sword Takara, and for the lesson.” 

She smiled at him and then touched Emhyrs cheek with the back of her fingers, “good night, and blessings upon you Emhyr,” she looked over at Geralt, “Geralt child, good night and do remember - if you can’t be good, be good at it.”

Geralt who had just raised his wine to sip choked on it as she laughed and then vanished. 

He was still spluttering as Emhyr came and then without a word of warning, straddled him, his hand wrapping around Geralts throat and tilting his head up to look in his eyes, those brown eyes were aflame with liquid heat.

“So whats this present you got me that so secret?” He murmured to Geralt, and ground against him, Geralts cock was suddenly very happy at the pressure and the position.

“You’re going to have to get off me if you want to see it.”

Emhyr just smirked and then leant in for a staggering kiss that just about rocked Geralts world on its axis. 

Then when Geralt was about to throw plans to the wind, Emhyr stood up, “well I’m curious.”

Geralt groaned and looked down a this cock, “its alright, we’ll get some action soon,” he told it and was happy to see Emhyr laugh, an open laugh that spoke to Geralt.  

He loved that laugh.

He got up from the chair and then said in as seductive a tone as he could, “follow me, heart of my life and I’ll show you just what I brought.”

Emhyrs eyes glowed, yep got the tone right that time Geralt thought smugly as he turned to walk back into the bedroom, he put a sway into his stride that turned his walked into a sensual glide, and made his ass look a sight too good too. 

He heard Emhyrs intake of breath as he did and smirked, that practice had been worth it, he decided.

He lead Emhyr passed the bed, past the bath and paused outside the door to Emhyrs private room.  

“Mererid placed them in here,” he muttered suddenly a little self conscious about everything, gods it was the worst idea ever he thought.

Emhyr put a hand on his back, “I can’t wait Geralt,” he purred in Geralts ear from behind, Emhyrs hand came out to squeeze his hip and then slide down over Geralts ass, “shall we?”

Geralt nodded, and then opened the door, taking a few steps in as Emhyr all but crowded him in from behind. He was so focused of the feeling of Emhyrs hand still gripping his ass that he really hadn’t  taken any notice of the latest addition to the room.

When he did, he froze, Emhyr stepped out from behind him and walked over to it, “I must say Geralt, I know this isn’t from you beloved, but I am looking forward to trying it out with you.” He put a hand on the back of it, fingers caressing as he moved down the length, obviously finding pleasure in the tactile feel.

Geralt hadn’t just frozen, he had forgotten to breathe.  

He couldn’t help it, when his breath did come back, so did his voice, “Dammit Yen,” he all but yelled so loudly he was pretty certain the sorceress would be able to hear him clear across the city.

Emhyr just gave that dark seductive chuckle of his, and patted the hind quarters of the stuffed unicorn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 16

 

Two days later,

 

Geralt perched on Emhyrs desk as Ciri, Fainrael, Yennefer and Eskel either paced, sat or stood as the six of them discussed the investigation that Ciri was sneakily conducting.

They had had a massive breakthrough, one of the Imperial Blades, a mage who had infiltrated the Magic Academy years ago to spy had reported a bone chilling rumour.  There was hushed whispers among a few very select high ranking mages of a type of spell craft that could sway a persons mind to yours.  While it wasn’t unusual for mind magic to be used on people, it was very easily counteracted by wards, shields and a strong mind.  Axii was after all a bastardised version of mind magic that the witchers used and yes, abused at times.

Geralt knew that Emhyr wore an armband that stopped those very spells from affecting him.  

All nobles and those who could afford it did, and the laws against its practice and use were very precise, not to mention deadly with the death penalty in effect for most of them.

But mind magic had its own tells that indicated the person was under an influence spell, a glazed expression and total change of personality and decision were usually a big hint.  Yennefer had gotten off relatively unscathed as the spell she used against him was more emotion based, a calming spell that worked with the spell the Genie had cast on them.

This new spellcraft however, was apparently very subtle and the usual counterspells didn’t work, it worked by attuning the victims mind and beliefs to the mages own so that the persons would think and feel the way that the mage wanted to them to. 

What had Ciri, Emhyr and Yennefer alarmed was that if this was true then the potential for misuse could have catastrophic consequences for both mages and those who retaliated against them.

It had Geralt alarmed as well.

Ciri had finished giving the report to Emhyr who looked about as angry as a storm at sea at this news, now they were discussing the next step.

“I haven’t heard anything to hint about this type of magic, however my circle of acquaintances does not include many of those who study mind magics,” Yennefer was saying as she paced.

“So you think its just a rumour?” Asked Emhyr as he sat almost frozen in place.

“Even if it were it still needs to be thoroughly investigated Sire, there is so much that Magic can do and we mages and sorcerers have a tendency to horde our findings to ourselves, there is the distinct possibility that this is not just a rumour.”

“The spy did say that she was lucky to overhear the two high mages, if she hadn’t had to tie a lace and therefore bent down and overheard the hushed conversation through an air vent then she wouldn’t have heard a thing.  She reported that in her investigations into it she found that the four mages she suspects all have connections to several Imperial mages here in the palace. I have the names of all seven of them and Gerantieth’s second is one of them.” Ciri was pacingas she spoke, hands twisting a hair pin that she had pulled from her hair in her frustration.

Emhyr had a Council of nine mages known as the Imperial Court Mages who advised him on magic and magic policy, they were highly trusted by him and Geralt could see the anger and frustration in Emhyrs eyes at the possibility of a betrayal from any of them.

“Are you sure its a new type of spell?” Eskel rasped from his position leaning on the bookcase closest to Emhyrs large desk.

Yennefer shrugged her shoulders at him, “There is nothing in Arutuza or the Magical Library at the academy to speak of such a complex and subtle work.  I would have certainly researched it,” she looked ashamed and glanced at Geralt, “I was once very interested in mind magics and manipulations spells.”

Geralt waved a hand to her, letting her know it was in the past, “All good Yen we’ve moved on that.” He looked at Emhyr who had a scowl on his face that would have frightened the devil, “I know you want to keep Takara out of this but the library that could help, she also has a memory like a bear trap - once shes read something she doesn’t forget it.”

Yen nodded her head, “there are texts within the library that haven’t been seen for centuries on subjects that are forbidden and illegal today, its a good idea to ask her.”

Emhyr shook his head, but it wasn’t a no, “Ask her, and Geralt make sure you aren't overheard, I can’t stress enough at how sensitive this information is. Even a hint of it among the elite will cause a panic and the potential for a witch hunt that will put Radovid’s to shame.”

Geralt nodded his head, “understood.”

They were all silent as they waited for Emhyr to speak, and with a sigh he pushed back his chair to stand up and step away from his desk.  He paused to look out the window overlooking the City, “would any of us even know if we’re being manipulated by this magic Lady Yennefer?”

Yennefer was silent and then with a sigh of her own she spread her hands, “I cannot say sire, I don’t know anything about this, it may just be a terrifying rumour or it maybe truth. I just don’t have enough information.”

Emhyr nodded his head and then turned back to face them, “Ciri get your spy to investigate further, Lady Yennefer see if you can find out anything on the mages on Ciri’s list, ard’Enthiel I need anything that could point towards a potential threat or blackmail from or to any of them.  I need to know if this goes beyond my council.  And Geralt, you have your orders.”

They all nodded to him, Yen, Eskel and Fainrael bowing to him as well, “and the trade negotiations with the Ofir delegation?” Emhyr asked Ciri, a very valid question as the meeting was supposedly about the trade.

“They want me to marry the Malliq’s seconds son, he would become my husband and Emperor to cement an alliance with them.”

Emhyr raised an eyebrow, “and your reply?” he asked with a hint of sardonic amusement.

“You mean after I had to hold Morvran back from going for the ambassadors throat? I told them it was a trade negotiation not a damn treaty and even if it were a treaty alliance my up coming marriage would not be set aside for a foreigner.” She gave her father a rather vicious smile, “I didn’t deliver my reply nicely either, I also told them that if they were going to play an absurd game with me then I would up and leave the table, they need us more than we need them. I don’t have time for their games and I certainly don’t have time to spend on demands that are quite frankly insulting.”

“Good girl,” Emhyr murmured to her with a smile that Geralt noted was as vicious as his daughters.

“I did invite them to this afternoons garden banquet as part of your Birthday celebrations this week, I thought it would be appropriate.”

Emhyr nodded his head, “well done, it seems you have everything perfectly at hand. You certainly let them know that just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you’re a prop.”

“I had an excellent teacher, and as you said I wasn’t called the Lion Cub of Cintra for no reason, I bared my fangs,” she said with a tease to her voice.

Geralt had noticed that Emhyr and Ciri seemed to be a little more relaxed and casual around each other, had been for a few weeks now.  He’d had the feeling that Emhyr had still been holding Ciri at arms length, scared to truly reach for her in case he frightened her or said something that would cause her to lash out at him.  Geralt hadn’t asked but he had a feeling that something had been said, something that had clarified and helped them heal a little more.

“All right then, we’ll discuss this further tomorrow, both the mages and the trade.”  Emhyr glanced at his new clock that Elka had very shyly and very proudly given him that morning, much to Emhyrs delight, he’d been as curious as Elka when she had explained what it was.  Ciri had promptly declare she wanted one and Emhyr said he had plans to have the artisan tracked down and several more made.  It appeared to those who valued their time, that a time teller was a valuable item.

“10 minutes to the next bell, we’ll wrap this up.  Eleven bells tomorrow, carry out your orders and be silent about it.”

Once again they all nodded and then bowed to leave, which left Geralt still perched on Emhyrs desk, Emhyr walked over to him and Geralt took hold of Emhyrs hand, running his thumb over softening callouses, Emhyr hadn’t been practicing much with the sword lately, too busy he had said.

“We’ll get to the bottom of this, and quickly Emhyr.”

“I know, I trust the people that are dealing with this implicitly, I’m just furious that this was able to flourish under my very nose,” he sighed and then pulled his hand away, “we need to get ready for the Garden banquet.” He said it apologetically but took the time to run his hand through Geralts hair, “I’m angry at the thought that I could be controlled and wouldn’t know about it,” he muttered under his breath, but Geralt heard it. 

Geralt simply nodded his head at Emhyr, there wasn’t much more he could say, it was a very valid fear as far as he was concerned.

Geralt straightened up and without a by your leave, thoroughly kissed Emhyr, who flowed back with a passionate response that had Geralt cursing that he’d even done it.  His cock was hard in seconds and his heart rate up to an insane level.

Arousal pump through his system in just heartbeats, he was usually able to moderate his body’s responses, Emhyr however had a negative effect on his mutations.  He wasn’t able to control himself so well.  Most of the time.

Emhyr palmed Geralts cock, gripping it with the perfect amount of pressure as he kissed Geralt with enough command that Geralt really wanted to bend over the desk and let Emhyr take what he wanted.

But Emhyr stopped, pulling back from the kiss with a soft curse and a partially accusing expression on his face, “we don’t have time Geralt,” he muttered.

“Hey I just wanted a kiss, you’re the one who decided to turn it hot and heavy,” Geralt pointed out, and received a tightened grip on his cock that was just this side of painful, it made him groan and he couldn’t help the thrust of his hips into Emhyrs grip.

Then his bastard lover let go, “control yourself beloved, come Mererid is waiting for us.”

With a few choice curses, and whole lot of mutation wrangling, he managed to get his cock down pretty quickly and followed Emhyr through their rooms to the dressing room where Mererid and his little band of servants were waiting for them. Armed with clothes and a heap of accessories.

This was a formal garden lunch, which meant formal clothes, Geralt sighed, whats the bet he’d be shaved and trimmed, again.

 

———

 

Geralt stood up straight as Emhyrs barber fixed the back of his head, hair perfectly trimmed, and pulled back in his usual half tail, but he had a silver adornment in the back of his head that he was trying to get used to.  He was dressed in black and silver, with forest green piping along the knee length tunic and through the brocade undershirt.  His quilted pants were black, as well as his highly polished boots, he had a silver belt around his waist and a silver pin on his shoulder that matched the gold pin on Emhyrs, he was wearing a silver sun of Nilfgaard he realised and wasn’t too sure about the meaning.  

He looked over to Emhyr, who was seated and literally being primped within an inch of his life, Geralt shook his head fondly, as he watched a maid rub creams into Emhyr hand, while another buffed the nails of his other hand.  

Fussy cat he thought lovingly but also with a degree of resignation.  He was ready, Emhyr patently was no and wouldn’t be for at least another half hour, he could sit back and watch which at one time amused him but now bored him, he could read he thought but wasn’t really interested in a book at the moment or - he could go an pick Takara’s brain. 

That was the better idea, get the answers that Emhyr wanted and see if the Library had anything that could help.

“I’m going to go and speak to Takara,” he said, Emhyr hummed a reply as his barber massaged his skull, Geralt didn’t blame him, the man had deft and strong hands.

He didn’t bother bowing but left the room and then went out on the balcony, there was a wrought iron spiral staircase that led down into the courtyard garden that the Imperial wing was built around.

It was a small but beautiful garden with a pond and bubbling stream, a waterfall that he could hear at night when the windows were open.  The paths were swept clean, the flowers looking more wild than the cultivated Imperial Gardens and a large old apple tree in the corner of the garden. 

It was starting to loose its leaves for winter though.

He walked up to Takaras balcony door and before he could knock on it, her voice called him in, Haru and her were seated on the floor with wooden blocks stacked in front of them, he knew the game.  The aim was to pull a block from the tower without it toppling over, it was a good tool for teaching children problem solving, assessing, and execution.  He whistled when he saw just how precariously balanced the tower was as Haru very carefully manipulated the block out and placed it up the top, he greeted Geralt cheerfully when he finished but waited patiently for Takara to take her turn.

“Geralt child, to what do I owe the visit,” she ran a claw down the blocks, gently feeling them as she did.

“Can we be overheard?” She just looked at him, an eyebrow arched in feigned disbelief, “okay,” he said,”stupid question.”

“Most certainly, I value my privacy Geralt, there is no possible way anyone can spy on me.”

Great, I need your help and I need to know if the library has any information of a type of mind magic.”

He then told her everything that had been discussed just an hour ago, she listened intently but still played the game with Haru, taking out a block that made Haru sigh and look at her with consternation. 

She smiled at her kit, but then levelled her gaze on Geralt, “The type of spellcraft you are talking about was studied at Kaer Morhen nearly five hundred years ago, but the mage who studied it stopped when it was discovered to be too fragile and too unpredictable to the mage.”

Excellent, he thought, if in doubt ask the Guardian, he sat on the indicated seat and listened as she launched into a lesson that made him think of the days of his childhood.

“A bond must be established between the mage and the intended victim, that involves a link created by magic and held by blood or bodily fluids.  That link must be tended too all the time by the mage and no other and the fluids must be replenished on a weekly basis, if that process is disrupted then the link fails.  The link is forged over several years depending on the mind that they’re linking too, the victim starts to change their world view to reflect that which the mage wants them too.  It is a subtle control and is dangerous more to the mage than the victim, the danger to the mage is that a powerful mind can unconsciously subvert the link somewhat and it sends the mage...mad, enough for them to become erratic at any rate.  When that happens the control is lost, although the bond still remains, the victim is no longer under any type of control but still retains the belief the mages has given him or her.  It is also a very fragile bond, if the fluid that maintains the bond isn’t replaced, it breaks, the mages death also breaks the link, and the person very quickly starts to return to their previous beliefs. I can break it easily by just flaring my power.”

“So it wouldn’t be easy for a mage to control an Emperor,?”asked Geralt, knowing that it was probably easier to get blood out of a stone than out of the most protected individual on the continent.

“Not unless that mage had a steady access to the Emperors blood, or seed.”

“Are there any books on it?” 

“Yes several research journals, however due to the rather illegal magics I would prefer not to give them to just anyone.”

Geralt nodded, he’d talk to Emhyr about that, while he had forgiven Yen for the past betrayal he didn’t want to give her knowledge that she could potentially misuse, trust was not so easily mended.

“I can also tell if the spell has been used on someone, either now or in the past, it leaves a type of magical scar, a lesion on the self, the persons aura, if you know what to look for it’s easily found.” She said and her power suddenly surrounded the tower as it started to fall, she stopped it but Haru just groaned his hand still on on the block he had been trying to pull out.

“Well done Ha-chan,  you did much better this time round, taking your time to choose your target is invaluable when playing games, or hunting, never forget it and hone that skill.”

“Yes Hahaue.”

Geralt stood up as Takara did as well, her red kimono smoothing into place as she gracefully walked to him.

“Is that all Geralt?”

“Yes, and I should get back up, I must say that dress is lovely, you’ll look stunning in the Gardens today.”

She chuckled, “I thank you for the compliment child but this isn’t what I am wearing to the banquet.”

Geralt blinked, very conscious of the time, “you don’t have much time until we gather.’ He warned knowing that women usually needed hours to get ready, men less so - unless it was Emhyr, Emhyr liked to take his time too.

She smiled, “I don’t need a lot of time,” she said cryptically and then gestured to the door, he gave her a kiss on the cheek which she took as her due and he left to walk back up the staircase to his rooms with Emhyr.

He was hoping that Emhyr would be ready, and was very happy to find that he was.  Emhyr was dressed nearly the same as him, from the swept back hair, to the tips of his boots, he was in full black, the only break up of colour was the gold.

Gold crown, gold pin, gold chain of office, gold buttons and gold sash.  And the same cold look about him that he got when he was dressed up like this.  Geralt couldn’t help the little shiver that ran down his spine, it had nothing to do with fear and everything to do with his kink about Emhyr looking all Imperial.

Maybe? He gave a small half smile at the idea and when Emhyr looked at him as he stepped off the dressing dais Geralt leant in and whispered, “tonight, you, me and your throne.”

Emhyr sucked in a breath at Geralts proposition, “well beloved, how adventurous of you, consider it a date,” he purred and ran his fingers down the silver buttons on Geralts tunic.

Geralt smiled at him, “good, bring the orb.”

Emhyr chuckled at him, Geralt knew full well that his embarrassment and fear at being caught drove his excitement levels up, and Emhyr loved to play on them.

“I got an answer from Takara, quite a bit actually,” he said, letting Emhyr know that she had the information he had needed.

Emhyr nodded not saying anything with so many servants around, then kissed Geralt on the lips and said, “you can tell me tonight, lets meet the others and then head down to the gardens.”

Geralt nodded and then followed Emhyr to the family room where Ciri, Elka and Takara had been told to meet them there.

As they came in from the balcony, Ciri was standing behind Elka as she re-tied the sash about the young girls waist, the girl looked up at them and beamed. It was her first real affair and she had been looking forward to it for the last two weeks when she found out she had been invited.

Ciri declared her fixed and turned looked over to them, both girls were wearing a formal type of day dress, Elka in a rich blue that matched her eyes and gave her a rosy glow to her cheeks and Ciri in a green and gold that brought out the brilliance in her own eyes.  

“You two match, did you plan that on purpose father?” She teased Emhyr, Emhyr went red in the cheeks and Geralt realised she had just hit the hammer on the head.  

“Possibly,” Emhyr muttered as she came and kissed his cheek, Elka giggled and then went and hugged Geralt while Ciri hugged Emhyr.

“You both look very handsome, Lady Yennefer would say distinguished,” Elka said with a smile at him, Geralt had a few things to say to lady Yennefer when he managed to get hold of her privately.  He hadn’t been able to growl at her before, but when he did, he was going to give her a piece of his mind.  

He still couldn’t believe she had actually given Emhyr the unicorn.

“Thank you sweetheart, are you looking forward to the banquet?”

“Yes, very much, and I promised Lady Takara I wouldn’t let Haru wander far from me,” Takara stood up from the usual chair she sat in, letting Haru down from her lap. She was dressed in grey and silver, with blue highlights through the material of her dress, she was wearing another formal hanfu with silver and blue flowers in her elaborately done hair style.  Haru matched his mother, in the grey and blue, and the clothes he was wearing looked formal, large wide pants, a soft shirt and an open robe that was held together with a blue knotted cord.  She had been right, she didn’t need much time at all.

Haru gave a cheeky bow to Emhyr and then said, “I am instructed by Hahaue to apologise for what I said the other night, she explained it to me, and while I think humans are weird I understand I am not to speak of such things again in public, at least not until I am much much older.”

Emhyr thanked Haru and then before Ciri could voice her curiosity at Haru’s rather cryptic apology he declared that they should leave.

They came down to the imperial gardens and Geralt could see through the windows to how it had been decorated, tables and chairs were put under marquees and awnings, spread out over the beautiful landscape. A large area with massive trestle tables was set up with an amount of food on it that made Geralt blink and commiserate with the kitchen staff. Gold and black banners draped down the large columns of the building surrounding the garden, and flags had been planted on stands throughout.

Emhyr and Geralt waited while Takara and Haru were announced, then Ciri and Elka. They waited for the girls to join others with Ciri joining Morvran and his family and Elka joining the younger children and early teens that had been invited.  Geralt spied Takara being mobbed by several mages, Haru slipped away from his mother and went to join Elka.  

“So its just the upper nobles?” He asked as he looked out the windows, there weren’t as many people as he had expected, in fact the garden looked empty.

“In the beginning yes, this type of event is staggered, people have strict times on their invitations, so they will be announced and then mingle, eat then leave.  The only ones that stay for the entirety of the event are the upper 12 families. In the next hour the fun really starts,” Emhyr replied dryly.

Geralt saw it though, and chuckled.  “well then the sooner this starts the sooner we can leave.”

“Please don’t hesitate to mingle Geralt, you don’t need to stay by my side.”

“There’s no place I’d rather be than by your side Emhyr,” Geralt murmured at him and Emhyr gave him a soft look, touching the back of Geralts hand as the pages opened the doors, and a Major-domo called out Emhyrs name and title, followed by Geralts.

Geralt walked by Emhyrs side, Emhyr wouldn’t let him step behind, he had Geralts arm firmly in his as he walked the garden paths, stopping to talk to the nobles as he did, all of them Geralt could now name, and he knew their social rank.  These here were some of the most influential men and women in Nilfgaard, nearly everyone of them played a part in the political state, whether it was on Emhyrs council, or the senate or even the trade Corporations.  

From Duke Torres aep Dahy, Nephew to Ardal aep Dahy to Baron Coehoorn and of course the Voorhis family.

They were the Dynasties that had shaped an empire, and shaped it still.

Emhyr was friendly to most of them, polite and informative, he asked them questions about their lives, estates and their children’s accomplishments.  Some of the questions seemed generic, harmless but Geralt could see the undercurrent of awareness from the people Emhyr spoke to.  The information Emhyr parted to them in asking those questions told the nobles Emhyr was very aware of what was going on within their families.  Geralt knew it as part of the Game the Emperor played, he always knew everything about them so that he knew what was going on in any given moment.

It wasn’t often that Emhyr was caught unawares.

They finally got to the marquee that had been set up for Emhyr and he took his seat, Geralt taking the one beside him, there was no throne today, just an area set up to entertain. Prince Voorhis, Morvrans father almost immediately took a seat as well, Emhyr turned to him and they started to discuss a matter of importance that the senate had raised. 

Geralt wanted to shake his head, it was a birthday party and Emhyr was talking work.  How typical he thought, so he looked out over the garden and watched as Haru stamped up and down the trees as he played with the children, Elka making sure he kept out of trouble.  

Margrave var Aren approached him, making eye contact and conveying to Geralt he wanted to talk to him, the young man had his wife with him, the Aedirnian girl Vianne.  She was looking radiant in a black and gold dress but there was a tightness about her eyes that hinted at inner pain. Geralt smiled and they both came to speak with him.

Var Aren had been part of the Progress right up to it reaching the city so Geralt had gotten to know the lord and his wife quite well, Vianne had a backbone and strength that spoke of true courage.  

As they spoke, Vianne congratulated him on his win in the Amphitheater, she had been there that day, along with her mother and sister in law, thats when he realised where the tightness was coming from.  Emhyr had said in his meeting with var Aren in Gulet that the Margraves mother wouldn’t be too impressed.  It appeared Emhyr had been right, Geralt had an idea as they spoke, Emhyr was in the process of trying to find appropriate ladies of sufficient rank to attend Elka, they had Arenia but the young princess needed several more Ladies in waiting, maybe he should ask Emhyr if Vianne was a possible candidate. 

They conversed further and spoke about how they were both settling into the City but before long var Aren was being called away and Vianne went with him, then he found out, just what a hot commodity he was as he was swamped by people wanting to talk to him.  

He was soon caught up in discussions and the time flew by, interspersed when the Major-domo announced a new set of people arriving. 

He heard his foster daughter introducing someone to Emhyr and Geralt immediately looked around, he was standing a few feet from Emhyr, Geralt had gotten up at one point in the last few hours and hadn’t returned to his seat, in fact someone else was in it. Emhyr too had stood up and was now standing with a small group of men.

 Emhyr nodding his head to a dark skinned, portly Ofiri man, dressed in the manner of his people with a sleeveless tunic, with an ornate turban decorated in gems and feathers. On his arm was a veiled woman in an exotic purple outfit, with much of her abdomen and her shoulders bare, she stood with him and Geralt could see the gold notes that told him she was a mage dance about her.

There were two unarmed Ofir guards stood with them, their muscled arms crossed at the chest.

He didn’t need to be told that this was the Ofir trade Delegation, Ciri had introduced the three nobles with Emhyr as well and then turned a bit, she smiled and said, “And this ambassador Midhat, is sir Geralt of Rivia, a witc-“

The ambassador reared back and his two men were immediately reaching for swords they didn’t have, Geralt had a second to think oh fuck, before the man pointed at him and very loudly said, “The Malliq has ordered your death you honourless assassin, I never thought I would have the glory of bringing him your head”

Yeah this wasn’t good, thought Geralt, as the entire garden went silent and Emhyr, one eyebrow raised just looked at him and said a little too calmly.

“Geralt, whatever did you do to have an Ofir death sentence placed upon your head?”

Geralt winced, not good at all he thought as everyone’s attention was very suddenly on him, he couldn’t imagine the outcome of this.  It was going to turn into a political nightmare of epic proportions he just knew it.  Gods he thought, suddenly chilled, he could loose everything he had right now and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it.

He looked at Emhyr his heart in his throat and didn’t know what to say.

Chapter Text

Chapter 17

 

While Geralt was trying to frantically think of something to say in the wake of such devastating information the ambassador of Ofir knew precisely just what to do to make it all so much worse.

“He murdered crown prince Sirvat, blessed of the Sand and Dunes, beloved son of the Malliq,” he spat, his face red and his jowls shaking in rage.

Emhyr just continued to look at Geralt his eyes unreadable as he did and Geralts heart continued to drop. He heard the murmurs spring up, the words kingslayer and regicide where spoken softly, he would never be free of that epitaph he thought resignedly.

“Geralt?”

He nodded his head, and everyone gasped, there was no denying it. 

“In my defence, I had no idea the gigantic poisonous toad monster in the sewers of Oxenfurt was a cursed Ofir prince. I was contracted to slay a monster that was poisoning the water source and killing women who had been lured by fairytales of a cursed prince. If I had known it was a man under a curse I would have lifted it, not killed it as is the way of those from the school of the wolf.”

“Lies,” hissed Midhat at him, his dark eyes blazing in anger.

The murmurs rose for a second and then, “Ahhh he speaks truth actually, Geralt was contracted by Lord Olgierd von Everec to slay the monster, I was contracted by the Redainian Army to create an antidote from the poison that was secreted from the same monster in the sewers.” He blinked at the voice and Emhyr looked to it, “The Redainian unit accompanying me were slain by it and Geralt saved me, we worked together to find the creature and I got the sample I needed.  I also saw Geralts fight with the creature and witnessed the aftermath, he lost consciousness and thats when several Ofir guards and a mage kidnapped him.”

Geralt had been surprised to hear that slightly accented voice and he turned a bit to see his favourite surgeon, on the arm of his favourite healer. He hadn’t seen Shani yet, their schedules clashing at the moment but by the gods it was good to hear her voice right then.

“Sire,” said Lanfare with a bow, “Master Surgeon Healer Shani Laudrin, from Oxenfurt Academy and now under me as a surgeon here at the Palace,” Lanfare introduced her to Emhyr.

Emhyr regally nodded his head to her, acknowledging Shani’s presence when she bowed to him, he knew who she was Geralt had told him. she smiled at Geralt, her green eyes serious though as she looked at him. 

“I believe you were a medic at the battle of Brenna Master Surgeon.”

“Yes sire,” she replied.

“And you -“ 

“It matters little about an unveiled woman,” hissed the ambassador, “you have a mur-“

“Do not interrupt me again ambassador Midhat,” Emhyr said with such chilling finality that it pierced the Ambassadors anger and he looked at Emhyr, to say cutting off the Emperor was the height of political stupidity would be an understatement.

Emhyrs deadly gaze was cold as the grave, the ambassador bowed low to Emhyr and apologised profusely, continuing on with several insults to Geralt that had Geralts eyebrows raising. That was new, he thought at one of them and then Midhat said, “seeing the murderer of our king of kings son standing here so brazenly among the flower of Nilfgaard, pretending to be a decent man is a travesty of the highest order.”

Geralt was starting to calm down, he could see that while Emhyr had been blindsided by this he was going to handle it with everything he was, and he started by dropping a bomb on the rapacious crowd observing everything.

“Geralt is not just my lover, he is also my fiancée.” It was very pointedly spoken, the Emperors eyes alight with anger and ire, a dangerous combination for any on the receiving end of that look, “your insults to him, are an insult to me.”

The hushed whispers that had been flowing through the gathered nobles froze as nearly everyone gaped at Emhyr and Geralt.  Geralt went a little red at the sudden scrutiny but looked at Emhyr and said, “I didn’t think you wanted to announce that until you retired”

Emhyr took the several steps to Geralts side and stood by him, reaching out to take Geralts arm in his, a show of solidarity. “I didn’t, but I am certainly not standing by listening to this prattle about you being an assassin, if you slew a monster who had taken human lives then you did as you were contracted to do.  There was no murder Ambassador.” 

Emhyr was firm and precise, and by the laws of the Continent, he was correct, a witcher was not held responsible for the death of one who was cursed when executing a contract to save the lives of others.  

“I humbly disagree your Imperial majesty, and so will the Malliq.”

“Here within the Empire and the once Northern Kingdoms, the one responsible is the one who placed the curse,” said Ciri.  She came up beside her fathers, in particular Geralt, she placed a hand on his shoulder as she did.

The woman mage hissed, “powerful is such a curse, find out we will who has betrayed the son of the Dunes.” She spoke with the same disjointed speech as most of her race did, the Ambassador however didn’t.

“I can give you the names,” said Geralt with a vicious smile of his own, finding his feet now that he knew he had the support. He didn’t need to back down he thought, he wasn’t going to loose this, but he had a card up his sleeve that could win. Those names, one was dead he thought, the other - well good luck to them tracking him down. 

Her eyes flared power and she pointed a long dangerous nail at him, “tell me you will, to inform the Malliq knows you were nothing but a tool will I.  Dangerous is a tool, dangerous only as the one who wields it Midhat, but still tool is he.”

She was the real power thought Geralt, Emhyr must have come to the same conclusion because he looked at the woman, nameless and faceless, his eyes calculating as he did so.

“He will give it when the Malliq gives his word not to move against Geralt or Nilfgaard in anyway,” he said commandingly.

She hesitated at that and shook her head, “Give it he will and the Malliq will see his wishes to right the past of his wrongs, counsel will I our king to take into consideration his words and our ties to Nilfgaard.”

Emhyr thought and then said, “one name to show Nibras that Geralt is willing to assist, the second name when the he takes the death sentence off my fiancée, I do not wish for the friendship between our two nations to become strained over this issue, but I will not allow the man I will marry to be slain.” Geralt was more than happy to leave this in the hands of the worlds most brilliant negotiator.

The woman nodded her head, “on my honour, agree will I, now tell me.”

Geralt hesitated for a split second, it didn’t seem right to give her the name of Olgierd von Everec when he was worse than dead, “Gaunter O’Dimm.”

He wasn’t expecting the shriek from across the garden as Takara reacted to the name.

What are you doing associating with that thing Geralt of Kaer Morhen.”

Oh boy, he thought she only called him that when he was either in trouble or she was feeling nostalgic.

She was suddenly in front of him, her tails jerking a bit in response to her agitation and the whites of her eyes had reddened slightly.

“Ahh,” was all he managed before he noticed with shock that the ambassadors two guards had literally sunk to their knees bowing to Takara. The ambassador himself, sweating profusely at the sight of her was in a bow lower than what he gave Emhyr and the mage herself trembled.

 Takara ignored them all to focus on him.

“Well?” She demanded, he had only seen her like this once, and he couldn’t remember the circumstances about it as he’d been around six at the time, but he did know she had left for about a year before she came back.

He thought fast, he couldn’t tell her the full story now, it would take too damn long, “Long story really short, I’m fine, I had no choice if I didn’t want my head removed from my body. I fulfilled the bargain and I am never doing it again. I will tell you everything later.”

She hissed at him, “bargain? Say it isn’t so Geralt, you bargained with that creature?”

Hell, he thought, why him? What had he done to deserve this, “Takara, I had no choice, and I had no idea what he was until much later.” He still wasn’t happy that he had been forced to treat with a demon of the Goetia.

Shuelat almawt alzarqa’,” whispered the mage, her voice full of fear and awe.  Takara looked at her and narrowed her eyes. 

Geralt didn’t know the Ofiri language, Emhyr did and he looked at Takara, “The blue flame of death” he said softly.

Takara was silent for nearly a minute, “I have a reputation in Ofir,” she murmured back with a chilling smile, her eyes going back to their usual yellow, but so very unfathomable.  “But enough of this - Lady Nihara, its been some time.  Now ask yourself this one question, do you wish for me to call the debt betrayed?”

The ambassador actually whimpered as he stood back up and the two guards moaned in fear.  Whatever Takara had meant by those words had scared them all.

Takara never took her eyes from the mage, who Geralt was now suspecting to be so much more than just a mage. “You know nothing about this continent and the ones who keep the nightmares back, you know nothing of me and all I have done to ensure that the monsters that plagued these lands didn’t overtake it.  Geralt is mine, as is every witcher of the School of the wolf, I raised them, I helped train them, they are kin and clan.  I will not let you kill him for a crime that was perpetuated by another and a Goetia demon of notable repute.” She hissed the last part, Nihara flinched, demons were not to be trifled with.  It was one of the lessons Takara practically hammered into them as a they grew up, it was the reason she was not happy with him now.  

“Tell the Malliq that if he persists in hunting Geralt I will consider it a betrayal of the debt.  You were there Nihara, Nibras’s father owed me his life and the lives of his family. He called it a life debt, a blood debt, that debt continues for five generations as is your custom. If I call the debt betrayed by your own laws and traditions he is honourless and all that he owns and is will be mine.”

Well hell, he thought, Takara had just turned everything upside down with that, “move against him and those he loves and I will retaliate,” she warned, “If Nibras agrees to leave the issue alone I will consider the debt repaid.” 

“Inform the Malliq will I, lady of Blood and Beauty.” Said Nihara as she bowed to Takara, 

Takara turned her gaze to Geralt, “we will speak.”

Geralt nodded his head, he looked at Emhyr who was still looking at Nihara, reading her reaction to Takara.  Geralt knew Takara travelled, knew she had others she saw throughout the world.  He was most curious as to how Takara had a life debt from the previous Malliq.

What he knew about debts of honour among the Ofir was about as much as anyone who had a little bit of knowledge about their culture.  Life debts were a huge deal, a blood debt even more so.  If Takara had saved the life of the Malliq and his family then she and hers were considered family until the debt repaid.  She had just declared him hers, and in the eyes of their traditions it effectively made him untouchable.

The Malliq couldn’t move against Geralt at all. 

Geralt looked at Nihara, “for what its worth, I never would have killed Sirvat if I had known about the curse.”

She looked at him, her eyes still glowing with power as she read him, and then nodded, “truth you speak. The Malliq harm you cannot, or the debt betrayed will the Lady call if he does, our deal no longer necessary for you to answer.”

Geralt smiled grimly and looked at Emhyr, Emhyr read the question in his eyes and knew what it was that Geralt wanted to do, his lover knew him well.

Emhy nodded his head, “give her the second name,” he ordered.

“In the effort of showing that I wish to right the wrongs of the past please tell the Malliq that Olgierd von Everec was the one who had the curse placed on his son.  The man is dead, not only was his death horrific, he died terrified and terribly, his soul taken by the demon.”  He didn’t need to tell her, but he felt that the Malliq should know that von Everec couldn’t harm anyone else.

She was silent behind her veil, “fitting, tormented will his soul be for an eternity.  This would please the Malliq to know.  Justice there is in that.” She looked at Emhyr and bowed low,  “We have offended, Majesty Imperial not our intention was this, allow us please to withdraw from you this day until amends we must make.”

Emhyr nodded, “I think that would be best Lady Nihara, you will also attend me tomorrow, I wish to discuss why Nibras’s head sorceress is here in my lands without my knowledge.”

Nihara bowed low, “done it shall be as you order.”

The ambassador and his guards immediately followed suite and left when she did, Ciri suddenly moved her hand to clap Geralt on the shoulder, startling him.

“There’s a story I want to hear.”

“As do I,” said Emhyr quietly, “did you forget that you had a death sentence against you Geralt?”

Geralt winced, “more like I had no idea, if I did I would have told you.”

“I’m glad to know that you weren’t hiding it from me, come, this is a story that we all need to hear.  The political ramifications cannot be downplayed even now.  Although I must thank you Lady Takara, your timely intervention was most fortunate.”

She bowed her head curtly to Emhyr, her eyes still focused on Geralt, “are you safe?” 

It seemed like an odd question to ask and the few gathered nobles that had stayed around looked as puzzled as ever, but Geralt understood it, “yes, the bargain was fulfilled.” 

Emhyr pointed at several of his advisors, those whose advice ran towards the diplomatic side, and told them to sit. Then ordered everyone else away from him except for Lanfare and Shani, to whom he said “you have some knowledge of this issue, I will hear it.” He then gestured to Geralt to sit down and as everyone did Emhyr looked at Geralt and said to him, “you and I will discuss this in further detail tonight, however now I need you to tell us everything.”  Geralt understood the warning, Emhyr wasn’t happy he’d been blindsided, he guessed that’s what they were going to be talking about tonight, but for now he would tell them the truth. 

Geralt did, he told them the whole sordid story, from the fall of the von Everecs that started it all, to him having to watch O’Dimm tear Olgierd’s soul from his disintegrating body while the man screamed in terror and agony.  By then he had realised just what he was dealing with. 

A demon and not just the common type of demon.

Everyone listened with rapt attention and at the end of his story Takara looked at him, “what was your payment?” she asked him softly.

Everyone was puzzled, Emhyr frowned at him, Geralt sighed, “I asked him where Ciri was, he wasn’t able to tell me, beyond his sight was all he could say but he did offer to tell me how to avoid a great danger that could befall her.  He gave me the answer and everything he said came to pass, I got the feeling that if I hadn’t done as he told me Ciri would never have returned from the White Frost. I don’t regret asking him that, I’d do it again in a heart beat.”

He saw Emhyrs hand close into a fist then tighten, “from what I understand about the Goetia you were lucky,” was all he said at the end.

“I know, I never wanted to speak of this, I wanted to forget it ever happened because out of all the fucked up shit thats happened in my life and in the contracts I’ve fulfilled, that was the worst.”

 Takara was silent as she parsed everything he had just said, she nodded her head, “I want a full written account Geralt, this -“

Geralt felt his skin prickle and he looked up to see a portal tear into existence across the garden, he frowned as did everyone. He started to raise to his feet, portals couldn’t be opened in the palace proper. There was a room where the protective spells would allow one but not anywhere else. 

What happened next happened fast, too fast for him to fully comprehend what had occurred, a yipping squeal came from Haru and a shriek cleared the garden, people cried out and guards were converging on the area, Takara disappeared with a snarl of absolute rage.

He saw her seem to materialise just a second later in front of the portal which she leapt for, disappearing. The portal closed but Takara had gone through it, landing on the other side of it still in the garden.

The magic couldn’t touch her, the portal wouldn’t move her she spun about, and his keen gaze could see that her eyes were desolate. His heart all but stopped as she looked about, her eyes bleeding to red, her tails puffing up, conveying her anger and rage.

One word tore from her in a cry of terrible pain and devastation, one word that tore at Geralts heart and soul.

HARU.”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 18

 

 

Emhyrs chest tightened in horror at Takara’s scream of anguish, Haru’s name trembled in the air as she sank to the ground and Geralt ran towards her, he didn’t think, he reacted.

“Morvran clear the garden of all non essential people, get as many witness reports as you can, I want my advisors to meet me in the Council room as soon as possible, Ciri -“

“I’ll order the detainment of every mage within the palace, someone’s tampered with the wards again.”

“Do that, I want the Court Mages here,” he hesitated, “and everything you have about your investigation.”

She looked at him, her eyes reflecting the same anger and resolution that he felt, “I’ve got the same feeling,” was all she said as she turned and ran, her guards behind her.

As the guards started moving people away he heard a young woman’s voice in an Aedirnian lilt call frantically, “Elka, they took Elka too.”

He focused immediately on Arenia, standing not far from where Takara crouched, she was panicked but she was pointing at the area where the portal had opened up.  Emhyrs blood went colder if that were even possible given his current level of anger and yes, fear. 

Not his foster daughter, he thought furiously, he’d already lost one child in his life, he’d be damned if he’d loose another.

His mind moved rapidly calculating possible scenarios, visualising the information that had been gathered over the years - who was the target? Was it Haru? Or was it Elka?

He needed that answer, as far as he was aware Elka was safe here in the City, there were no plots against her but Haru was Takara’s child.

“Morvran, question Arenia over what happened,” He ordered.

Takara hadn’t moved, Geralt was crouched beside her, a hand on her back frantically speaking to her, he saw her turn her head to look at the witcher and Geralt froze.  His already pale visage went even whiter and he lost his balance as he scrambled back, landing on his ass, still moving.

Takara stood, and her power flared, pulsing through the palace in a wave that made every hair on his body prickle at the feel of it, he had never seen anything like it from her before. Yet as it pulsed outward, it suddenly flowed inward and she was surrounded in a column of blue fire, a raging inferno that did singe the garden beds and the furniture around her.

Emhyr thought hard, calculating all he knew about her and decided to test the friendship he had built with her, “Takara Ayakashi,” he called out in imperial command, utilising his oratory capabilities to get her attention, because right now he didn’t think she would heed him.

The column of flame burst apart and her power scattered about her in balls of blue fire. He looked at her, and swallowed hard, she was a sight to behold in her incandescent fury and he rapidly debated himself about the intelligence of his idea.

Her long hair had unbound itself and floated about her, framing a face that had narrowed, her glowing red eyes more almond shaped than before. But it was those blue markings that he had seen only a few times that were fully visible and glowing this time, that drew attention to the fox like cast to her face.  Her fangs were out, her claws were fully extended and in one hand he saw she held an amulet, and he knew it was the one that Haru wore, the one that gave the kit access to her and her power.

She levelled those savage eyes on him and snarled a word he didn’t know, “NANDA,” the windows in the buildings shook and the glasses hummed, several shattered at the power in her voice.

He took a calming breath, and swallowed again then tempered his voice more moderately, “you once said to me that your anger doesn’t rule you.  I understand that you are angry, but Haru needs you to be able to think past that.  Both he and Elka have been kidnapped and I need you to help find them, not go into a blind rage where reason and thinking take a backstep.”

She actually hissed at him and swivelled her head, tilting it into a position that looked so inhuman it made his skin crawl to see it.

Geralt was standing up now, and gave him a look that conveyed that he thought Emhyr was absolutely insane.  Emhyr agreed with him, what the hell was he thinking trying to talk to an enraged kitsune who had the power to tear over three hundred people apart in minutes.

But she merely took a deep breath, and let it go, her power pulling back, the glow dispersing and the red receding from her eyes.

“You are right, anger and fury are not needed here now.”

He let the breath he didn’t know he was holding out in a sigh, major crisis adverted he thought a little wildly.

“Takara, your bond with Haru? Can you feel him at all?”

“I feel that he is alive, but he is not within the limits of the city, I have no idea where he is, he cannot call me, he cannot change.” Her hand closed tightly over the amulet, and her voice shook and broke as she said, “my kit is powerless Emhyr.

“We’ll find him Takara,” Geralt swore to her as he came back up to her, she looked at Geralt and then with a glowing hand touched him on the cheek, Geralt blinked rapidly and then groaned bending over, panting.

“wha-“ he hissed out as he stood back up, his face as white as snow and his yellow eyes now fully black, Emhyr could see fine traces across his skin, his veins he realised.  

“I’ve heightened your mutations, the pain is momentary.  Find me my kit Geralt, find me my son. Find me my son and you will find our Elka.” She looked at Emhyr, and while she was calm, there was a viciousness in the calmness that made him wary of her, “What do you need me to do?” 

Emhyr looked at her, she was asking him for direction? But as he looked at her he understood she was asking him to help her keep her rage down by focusing on something.

“Gather the witchers,” he ordered, “we may have need of them.”

She nodded her head, and then left, all but vanishing from them in the blink of an eye.

“Geralt?” He asked, worried about what had happened to him.

Geralt was silent for a few seconds, then said, “I’m good,” his voice had a resonance to it that Emhyr hadn’t heard before. “She’s just activated and heightened every mutation I have.”

“Are you-”

“I’m good, the pains gone, its like I’ve just downed every potion I’ve ever brewed at once.  Everything is running at optimal strength and my brain isn’t breaking under the onslaught to my senses.  I had no idea she could even do that.”

Emhyr nodded his head, he didn’t know how Geralt could help them now with his mutations heightened as they were but he would take every advantage that they could get. Geralt walked over to him, as he did Emhyr saw him take stock of every muscle that he had by moving them about. 

There were very few personnel now in the garden, Takaras rage had made the nobles run, those that stayed were those that would help, Emhyr walked quickly towards the archway back into the palace complex and arrived to the walkways surrounding the Imperial gardens, his boots ringing as he strode down them.

He saw ard’Enthiel run through the archway, Eskel at his side and Lady Yennefer steps behind them, all three were wearing formal clothes and he remembered that they had been invited as guests.

Eskel came to a skidding halt as he saw Geralt, “what the fuck did you take?”

“Nothing, this is all Takara, more importantly I can see the magics hat took Haru and Elka, Yen-”

“So can I, I can also say that most of the wards within the palace are down.  And they were taken down from the ward-room, the palace guards were slain and the two mages watching the wards killed.”

Emhyr hissed, the Ward-room was in the mages wing of the palace, it was where the wards for the entirety of the palace complex were maintained.  The room was keyed to the people who used it, it wasn’t a long list but those that were on it were all mages and the door opened for them alone.

There could only be one possible way to get into the room - betrayal.

Just as he drew that conclusion Ciri came in with a dozen of the brigade, escorting five of the Imperial court Mages, five of his nine advisors, she was furious.

“Out of all the advisors father, only these could be found, Master Gerantieth is missing as are Master Elderbetch and Mistress Alural.  Master Kilbreth is dead.”

Emhyr didn’t ask how, Gerantieth, his senior mage and advisor, had been with him for nearly five years and Emhyr trusted him implicitly.  The thought that he had been betrayed by a man he had placed such trust in soured his stomach.

Geralt just looked at the mages and then turned running into the palace with a shouted, I’ll be back”

Emhyr looked at them, “where are they?” He asked with deadly calm.

The five of them didn’t know, and they pleaded to be believed, he listened as they spoke one after the other, but it was all the same, Emhyr held up a hand, just as Geralt came back.

“I know that there was an illegal type of mind magic being studied, one that didn’t activate wards and shields.” 

He paused, to observe their reactions but they looked at him blankly, confused - Geralt continued, “A magic that creates a bond between a mage and his victim that must be established over several years, this subtle spell subverts the victims core beliefs to one the mage directs, basically changing their morals and ethics.  It can turn a peacemaker into a warmonger.  This isn’t a new magic, it’s been studied before, however a powerful mind in the victim turns the mage insane over time, the mage becomes erratic, the victim more mired in the new set of beliefs and emotions.”

“How do you know this,” asked Mistress Edara, puzzlement and confusion on her pretty face.

Geralt gave a grim smile, “because witchers aren't just brawn and no brains,” with that he pulled a glittering green bomb from behind his back where it was clipped onto his belt, he threw it into the mages where it exploded and dimeritum charged powder surrounded them.

The Impera darted out from behind column and bound the mages in dimeritum chains and manacles, it happened fast and it completely neutralised the mages.

Emhyr wasn’t expecting it but he had a feeling it was Geralt who was behind it, “Geralt?” He asked, his tone commanding the witcher to speak.

Geralt nodded, then stepped up to Master Padrach Torvian, Gerantieth’s second on the Council, he gripped the mage by the front of his collar and dragged him up and thrust him back against a column.

“Let me tell you a bit about a witcher and his mutations, smell is important to us particularly in our investigations.  My senses are heightened to a degree that makes my nose sharper than a blood hound, we are also taught to break those scents down into their components and to identify emotions based on the scent a person gives off.  Normally we get lies and a few other strong emotions, lust and anger for the most part but at the moment I can break down your scent to three emotions.  Satisfaction, the sour scent of jubilation, and now I can smell fear.  Out of the other mages on the council I can only smell fear and confusion, anger and terror.   Fear and confusion means they don’t know whats going on and their scared, you however are happy this is happening, and somethings happened thats been planned to happen, hence the satisfaction.” 

Geralt held the man there almost negligently, not straining at all against holding the man off the ground.

Emhyr noticed Ciri was a little wide eyed as she stared at Geralt, then looked at Eskel, Eskel caught her look and shrugged, his own eyes a little wide, even Emhyr was a little stunned at the casual display of strength.

“Torvian, you will tell us everything or I’ll have it tortured out of you,” Emhyr warned, they knew that Torvian was in contact with the high mages caught speaking about the mindspell, and if Geralts break down of scent could be understood in that fashion then Torvian knew more than he was telling.

The scared look on Torvians face disappeared as if it were never there and he sneered at Emhyr, “you can’t harm me, the moment the spell thats woven through me detects magic or drugs designed to make me speak is the moment I die, you won’t get anything from me. The moment my pain threshold reaches a certain level the spell activates and I die.  I was here merely to observe and report your reaction and the reaction of that creature you’re so fond of.”

That effectively tied Emhyrs hands behind his back and Emhyr couldn’t help the growl, damn it all he thought furiously, he had come across this spell before and it was a major set back in interrogations.

Geralt suddenly jolted and let Torvian go, stepping back several paces just as Takara appeared out of nowhere, a soft cruel smile on her lips, “The witchers are on their way,” was all she said as she took hold of Torvian by the throat and lifted him off the ground, holding him above her.  Her grip was tight and Emhyr could hear the mages breath wheeze out of him, he couldn’t clutch her hand for support so the entirety of his weight was being supported from his neck.

That had to hurt.

“Can’t - hurt - me.” He gasped, “tell - you -.”

“Hush little mage, you don’t need to speak to tell me anything,” she crooned and with her other hand gently stroked the cheek of the man within her grasp.

It looked like a gentle, loving touch, if one discounted that the man was dangling above the ground and his face rapidly darkened, or the wheezing whimper he let out as blood started to drip down the sharp cut she made.

The hand she had used to slice the cheek opened from the half closed state it was in and a large diamond sat on her palm, it began to float in the air as she moved her hand down. 

“Power,” she murmured, “it is always about power with you mages, you do not understand it therefor you must control it.  You fear what you cannot control and therefor fear what you do not understand. You can never just let it be because it is. You fear chaos so you must use it, I am order, and yet you do not realise this... You do not know me and the power that I am.  You asked to study me before, allow me to show you this.”

The diamond glowed blue and the blood that had poured from his cheek, down his neck and over Takara’s hand seemed to disintegrate into motes of glowing red then flowed into the diamond. When the stone itself had turned red, she dropped the mage who landed in a heap coughing and choking as he did, she took hold of the stone.

“What did you do?” He croaked wiggling back in his chains, moving away from Takara, fear etched over his face.

“My people have a saying, Chi no naka ni koiku ga aru, in blood lies the memory.  Everything you do and are is hidden within your blood.  The chi no ishi, the blooded stone will tell me your memories.”

Emhyrs breath caught at her words, unexpected he thought but he would take anything to get Elka and Haru back.

“How does it work?” asked Ciri, stepping to Takara, 

She held out the stone and said “ ask your question.”

“Where are Haru and Princess Varelkar?”

The stone throbbed and then a picture formed above it, a moving picture, as if someone were walking through a stone hallway.  It looked like a castle, not the smooth palace walls that were the hallmark of Nilfgaardian architecture.

“Yes, yes this will do quite nicely as a base.” It was Gerantieth’s voice and the picture moved to encompass him, “we can carry out the plan from here.”

It was astonishing thought Emhyr, as he watched the scene play out, Gerantieth and the three mages that were in the scene spoke of their plans, they moved about the castle, a ruin but mostly intact, it reminded him a little of Stygga, why did mages like ruined castles so much.

He listened as Gerantieth went on to explain that he had already started the bond forming on Emhyr, his source was paid dearly to give him the seed she collected from having sex with him.  He growled, getting angrier as it went on, the spell! they were trying to control him? 

And then Gerantieth dropped a comment that turned Emhyrs life upside down, it was Vilgefortz journals that explained the process.  Emhyrs back straightened and he felt ill, Vilgefortz he thought, a sick feeling forming in his stomach as the conversation continued, “it will take a few years to form, Vilgefortz wrote that var Emreis is strong willed by when we have him we can start to change his mind, we’ll get him to relax his policies about mages and what they study, we control the Empire.”  But then the image disappeared.

“What happened?”

“He only went there once,” murmured Takara, “he doesn’t know where it is.” She handed the stone to Emhyr, a bleak look in her eyes, “it will answer your questions, at least you will know why this has happened.  But ask yourself this Emhyr, if Vilgefortz had a bond with you, his death broke it - why did you change your mind in Stygga?.”

He stood there stunned, he understood the question and the implication.

Emhyr had let Ciri go, he had changed his mind about Geralt and Yennefers death.  Vilgefortz had controlled his plans to sire a child on his daughter? He remembered, it had been the mages idea during a midnight talk with him, it had felt right at the time, and then after the sorcerers death, it had felt very very wrong.  

 What pulled him out of his stunned mind was Ciri, she embraced him, “its okay,” she murmured in his ear, “its the past, it cannot change but if this is true than there is much we need to talk about.”

He swallowed, his mouth dry but he embraced her, his daughter, his treasure. It seemed so much clearer now, but there was still so many questions unanswered, not enough for him to extrapolate from.  He needed more information, he needed Vilgefortz’s journals.

He looked up and over to Geralt, Takara stood beside him and he looked normal now, she must have removed whatever she had done.

Suddenly she stiffened, her gaze zeroing to the north east, Emhyr followed it but other than the palace proper there was nothing there to account why she was - 

“Ohhh Haru,” she whispered, you bright, bright wonderful kit, you shouldn’t be able to reach for my power without the amulet.” She pointed in the direction she was looking, “there, three hundred and twenty four miles that way.”

Yennefer immediately zeroed in on the direction, her hands moving as a spell formed, “I can have the coordinates for a portal in less than ten min”- Takara, had literally sprung into the air, her power crashing down below her and forming that cloud, carrying her aloft as it did, they all stared at her in shock. By the time she had cleared the roof of the tallest bell tower, she was in her true form, a massive nine tailed kitsune, then glowing blue and silver fire about her, she launched herself, and ran.  She was out of sight in mere seconds.

“Get the co-ordinates, I want every mage here to be ready to open portals there as soon as you can. Gather the Impera Brigade in the main courtyard.  I want my foster daughter found.” 

Enhyrs order snapped through the palace like the fury of a hurricane, and beofre long, he had assembled a force ready to go.

His men were ready.

And his Witcher, he stood with the others who had arrived, the Witchers were armed, they were armoured and they were as furious as he was.

He gave the order, the mages opened the portals half a mile from Kaer Grohen... a ruined fortress not far from Darn Rowan.  

And in marches his men, led by the nine Witcher’s who had gathered at Takaras urging.  Eleven in total...

Takara was theirs, they would back her up.

 

——-

 

“They’re late.” As observations went it was pretty fucking accurate, thought the witcher as stood with his back to the room, ignoring the five or so excited mages as they moved around erratically.  The mage Gerantieth snapping about his orders left and right, angry about the delay that his little lackeys we’re in. Fucking arrogant prick, the witcher thought, if he hadn’t needed the coin, he wouldn’t be here but the fucking fortune the asshole had paid him made it worth it.

Barely.

He hated fucking mages. He’d never work with them again after this, after this he would have enough gold to get out of here, buy a horse, some better armour, then head north.

He felt a portal snap into existence so turned to see what what going on, it was showtime he thought disdainfully. Four people appeared one a man had a girl by the throat, the girl was well dressed, he thought dispassionately, probably some nobles brat although why they took her along when they were only supposed to get a small monster, was beyond him. The other one was a bloodied man who was holding a vicious little creature that squirmed and yipped, biting and clawing as he did.

The witcher frowned, black furred fox with pointed ears and tail he thought, strange it wasn’t a monster, he went to touch his medallion and then grimaced, he’d lost it years ago but the urge was still there.

They caused a commotion as the mages all tried to help the one who was bearing the brunt of the creatures fury but it was Gerantieth who stoped the thing by grabbing the girl and holding a dagger to her throat, she whimpered.

“Stop it you little beast or the princess dies.”

There was obviously a lot of intelligence in the fox creature because it stopped immediately, no ordinary fox that thing.  

Starting to understand why the mages wanted him here, he continued to observe.

“Don’t Haru, fight them’ the girl called out desperately to the creature, Gerantieth let her go and hit her hard across the face. Hhe hit the ground stunned but quickly recovered, wiping blood from her lip and giving the mage a look that would be lethal if it could kill.

“Emhyr will kill you for that,” she spat at the mage.

Princess huh, he thought a little amused, she had a backbone that was for certain.

Gerantieth ignored her and looked at the mage who had brought in the fox thing, “I can’t do a thing with him in that form,” he snapped, “it has no power, how am I supposed to preform a necropsy on it when its in a form of a fox.”

“It changed the moment I took its amulet off sir, and its been fighting every time we jumped through the portals, its why we’re late.”

Gerantieth started cursing them, “I don’t want your damn excuses, idiots, fools - I’m surrounded by a pack of imbeciles who cannot accomplish a single task, if I cannot understand why that creatures power disrupted the spells I had against the Emperor two years ago then I cannot counter act her.”  The mage started to pace, erratically spewing a tirade that had the witcher questioning the mages sanity.

“If we can’t get the spells in place again then it all goes to hell, we’ll be nothing more than lap dogs to that bitch whose about to take over.  And that fucking thing that var Emreis has befriended, befriended I tell you, who the hell befriends a thing like that.”  He spun about and then lunged, taking hold of the black fox and bringing him up to his face, “change you fucking little demon or I’ll tear her apart with my own magic.”

He was pointing to the girl, who had started to creep back slowly, the witcher was watching it all dispassionately from where he stood, not getting involved.

He had been told to be there in case it went feral, or in case the creatures mother followed, he wasn’t needed he thought with s sneer. He went to turn around when the fox suddenly changed, into a black haired naked little boy with fox ears and a bushy tail then with a terrifying snarl tore itself out of Gerantieths slackened hold and drove his claws into the surprised mages chest.

The boy ripped the mages heart out and then leapt over to the girl, landing lightly on his feet, and taking a guarding position in front of her, claws extended, fangs down.

Well well well, thought the Witcher, wasn’t that familiar, very familiar.

The mages started swearing, some powering up spells and the fox boy growled at them, blood dripping from the hand that held a human heart as a blue ring surrounded the two children.  The spells didn’t bounce off it they simply vanished as if they were never there.

One of the mages obviously remembered he was here, “This isn’t fucking worth it, witcher kill that thing.”

The witcher stepped forward, and the fox boy levelled its red eyes on him, and snarled.

He took the ten or so steps towards the creature and the girl slowly, observing everything as he went, letting his senses speak to him.  When he stoped just beyond the glowing blue ring he reached up and pulled his steel blade.

The kitsune narrowed its eyes, and said in a clear, somewhat high voice, “steel is for humans.”

The witcher gave the kitsune kit a nod as he stepped into the blue ring and finger signed a quen around the three of them, “Yep,” he growled at the boy, “but sometimes the fucking monster is the human, Haru isn’t it?” 

The boy smiled savagely, “Yes it is ... Lambert of the Wolf.”

Lambert returned the savage smile, “I can’t wait for your mother to get here.”

“Hahaue is on her way, she’s very very angry.’

“I just bet she fucking is” muttered Lambert as he tuned to face the mages, he smiled at them, “you should have asked what school I’m from,” was all he said as the screams of the mercenaries stationed in the ruined castles courtyard reached them in the broken tower.

Takara was here.

 

 

Chi no ishi - blooded stone

Chi no naka ni koiku ga aru - in blood lies the memory.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 19

 

Takara landed on all fours with graceful precision, lightly, delicately her power concentrated about her in a glowing cloud of silver blue flame. 

The courtyard was a littered mess of broken masonry, burnt shells of outbuildings and the towered keep while intact to a degree was broken in places.

 she looked about her as she took stock of her surroundings in one fell sweep.

Mercenaries she thought with contempt as a large group of warriors immediately drew their weapons spreading out to surround her, honour-less scum that she didn’t have the time for. She snarled at them, poison dripped from her fangs to hiss upon the ground. 

They looked terrified, there was no need to kill those that would leave willingly the necrophages would do that for her, she folded her power to her, and took the form she most often used in this world.

Dressed in a delicate white and blue swordsmans hanfu, swords at her waist, she swept her eyes, still red over the group, they cringed back, “leave and live, stay and die.  It matters not to me,” she said, most did just that, running in terror from her, there were some who did not.

She ignored them and walked towards the keeps doors, sensing the wards of the mages in places, she passed them as if they were nothing but air, flaring her power at them as she did. 

The wards failed.

One mercenary waited until she passed, then ran at her from behind, a cowardly move, she flicked her hand to pull in her light whip and without pausing moved her arm in a pattern that danced the ribbon of light through the air.

Screams sounded in her ears.

Their corpses fell in her wake.

And the silence as the last body dropped in pieces was deafening.

As she stepped through the doors, she flared her senses, and felt answer in return, her kit was above, and he was happy.  He was talking to a rough voiced man, asking whether they should kill the mages.

The man had said no, that there was a need for information that only they could give, Elka replied that Emhyr would want to question them.  There was something familiar about the tone, not the voice though, she couldn’t quite figure it out, she inhaled, and dearly wished she hadn’t. The scent of rot and mildew, the stench of rats and vermin and their leavings were so strong in her nose that it was all she could smell.

She sneezed, then sneezed again a growl forming in her throat.

She hated ruins for just this reason, she moved quickly through wards and shields, and magic traps she passed through them all, although for courtesy’s sake she tripped the traps for anyone who came this way behind her.

Emhyr and Geralt, Eskel and the witchers, they would be here soon, it wouldn’t do for them to be hurt.  

As she stepped onto the landing at the top of the tower, the mages still beg to be released, she had heard them since she had come into the building.

Ohhh how they begged and pleaded, bribed and threatened, seven mages in total begged the rough voiced man to release them, he just gave them a nasty laugh, and answered with a single word - no. She decided she liked this man, whoever he was he was helping her kit.  He didn’t frighten or worry Haru, she would feel it now as they were once again bonded through her power.

She opened the door and stepped into a mages paradise, a laboratory that housed a plethora of equipment, but her eyes however zeroed in on her little kit, naked, she noticed with fond consternation, always naked.

He was crouched beside Elka, petting her blond hair as she sat on the ground her back against the wall.  She gave Takara a tired smile when she saw her, Takara smiled back at Emhyr and Geralts little princess but Haru stood up at the sound of his name.

“Hahaue, I knew you would come,” he cried excitedly as he streaked across the room faster than any human could move and leapt into her arms, she caught her naked little boy easily and took stock of him.

He was splattered with human blood, not all of it belonged to one man, his bloodied hand held a human heart. He had killed his enemy, she thought proudly, just as she had taught him. 

“Well done my kit, well done indeed,” she said as she touched her forehead to his, looking into his yellow eyes, so like her own and so changeable. 

“I tore Garentieth’s heart out Hahaue, he was going to kill Elka so I tore it out.” He said it sadly, but there was pride as well in his voice.

“You did as you are Haru, I am proud of you.”

She looked away from him, seeing the corpse of Emhyrs head mage and the mess that Haru had made in tearing out his heart.  She then narrowed her eyes at the mages, lifting her lips to bare her fangs to them in a show of promise and contempt, when they were sufficiently terrified she turned her gaze - 

And froze, as her eyes locked with amber eyes that held pain and hope, relief and sadness, he had aged she realised as she took in the lines around his lips and eyes, those lines spoke of pain not laughter.  The silver liberally streaked through his black hair and she could see scars across his neck as it showed above his collar. 

She didn’t think but moved towards him walking as if in a dream, she reached out a hand to touch his cheek, her kit she thought with pain - there was too much anguish in his heart.

“My Child of Learning and Sorrow, we thought you dead,” she murmured.

Amber eyes just like hers, shimmered as he raised a scarred hand to cover her own, he breathed in deeply as he did, “Lady who walks the keep,” he said, his voice husky from damage, “I - I -“ his voice broke as the shimmer in his eyes intensified. He bowed his head to her and she pressed her forehead to his.

She moved to embrace him, one arm about her Wolf while she still held Haru with the other, “Hush Lambert, I have you.” 

She felt the fine tremble through him, a quite tear trailed down his cheeks and couldn’t help the silent snarl on her lips, it took overwhelming emotions for her witchers to cry and even then many could not, she would find who did this to him.

They would pay, oh how they would pay.

 

———

 

 Geralt and Eskel surveyed the ruins in front of them, they stood with the other witchers who had answered Takara’s plea, including Balik, the Griffin had pointedly said he could still swing a sword and he wasn’t being left behind.

Tellra had come as well, much to Geralts surprise, the other witcher had looked grim and foreboding in his ursine armour and said, “I’m here white wolf, say no more.”

Geralt hadn’t, but it hadn’t stopped the questions from forming that he badly wanted to ask.

They had come through the portals ahead of the battalion that Emhyr had called to arms and it was a good thing they had.  The corpses of mercenaries were littering the approach to the castle, and feasting on their very fresh corpses, were alghouls and ghouls, a whole damn horde of them.

The witchers were fast, they split up and took the fight to the necrophages. Their silvers swords flaring in the late afternoon sun as the screeches of the creatures echoed across the plains that Kaer Grohen overlooked.

It wasn’t a particularly rousing fight, it was over fairly quickly, Eskel called out, his voice echoing, “thats the lot, Takara has everything else taken care of.”

Geralt nodded and watched as the portals spat out Emhyr’s forces, the Impera Brigade he had called to arms, and the Imperial Blades along with the man who commanded them, Lord Gaylin Oxcentis, Emhyrs public spy master.  

He listened to the orders to secure the castle, to assist the witchers, a myriad of orders to make ready for the Emperor.

And then Emhyr and Ciri stepped out of the largest portal, Emhyrs personal Guard surrounding them both, led by ard’Enthiel and Groer.  Geralt let the breath the he had been holding go, he hated portals, so did Emhyr but while Emhyr hated them because of the feeling he got from them, Geralt hated them because he knew what could happen in one of those accidents that happened so very rarely.  

It hadn’t been pretty.

The two people coming through had come through - conjoined, and dead, well mostly dead.

Yen and several mages came through as well and then the portals disappeared.  He and the other witchers set off the half mile over the ruined road to the castle, their weapons still drawn as they ran lightly on their feet.

It was a habit that usually served them well.

They entered the broken gates to see Takara standing in a courtyard, Haru in her arms and Elka beside her, holding her hand.  Geralt felt the tenseness in him dissipate as he saw them.

“Geralt,” cried Elka as she let go of Takara’s hand and ran to him, he dropped his sword and caught her up in an embrace that could have been considered rib cracking but he was so relieved to see her.

“Sweetheart,” he murmured as he pulled her back to look at her, stained and torn dress, her hair was a mess and she was supporting a cracking bruise on her cheek and a split lip.

He went to touch it but stopped before he could make contact, it had to hurt, “who did it?” He growled, whoever it was wasn’t going to last the hour. If they were still alive that was.

She gave him a trembling smile, “Gerantieth, but Haru tore his heart out.”

Geralt blinked, well hell and the boy looked so innocent too.  Geralt looked over to them, Haru’s head was resting on Takaras shoulder and his bloodied hand held a box, he was clothed but the clothes were not the ones he had been wearing when he had been taken.

The soldiers were swarming the castle, the order to secure being followed to the letter, and within minutes, Emhyr was prowling in, he took one look at Geralt and Elka.

The cold commanding look in Emhyr faded to relief and Geralt saw something he didn’t think he would ever see, at least not in public.

“Elka,” Emhyr commanded, and held out his arms, Elka took off like a bolt straight into them and Emhyr literally bent down on his knee to see her, his hands frantic as he patted her down and gingerly touched her cheek.  Then he dragged the girl into his arms again, embracing her for everyone to see.  Ciri looked on a little nostalgic as she did, then looked over at Geralt, a smile on her lips at the sight.

A commotion at the door of the castle brought his attention as he started walking towards Takara, a small mysterious smile flashed at him before he looked away from her. He frowned as he saw seven men and women being herded out, a couple weren’t making it easy for their jailor he noticed as he spied glimpses of a man who just ended up punching the two who were trying to push back against him.

Geralt smiled at the punch, he approved but the smile died as the man stepped into the sun, Geralt blinked - frozen in place, it couldn’t be?

“Fucking mages, its like herding fucking cats.” The voice was rough, not smooth sarcasm as it should have been, but - 

“Lambert, language please, there are impressionable ears about.”

Oh gods, he thought, and took an unconscious step forward, the witcher looked up and over to him and the other witchers with him, he nodded his head at them.

Lambert.

Eskel swore softly beside him, and Balik rumbled a laugh, “Well well wolf pup, I see the rumours of your death were greatly exaggerated.”

Lambert gave them a rueful half smile and walked towards them, sheeting his steel blade as he did, “call me a fucking wolf pup again you old buzzard and I’ll show you the strength of my fangs”

“Oh Sun above, Lambert!”  Ciri cried out and then with a laugh of joy, ran up to him embracing him as she did, “you’re alive.”

Lambert hesitated but returned the hug, stiffly, then gave a wan smile to her as she pulled back, “hey there kiddo, you’re looking very Imperial these days.”

Geralt moved over to him, “hey there prick,” Lambert said to him, holding out his hand, Geralt took it still reeling at the sight of him.  Relief and happiness in his heart.

“You gods damn bastard, its so good to see you alive,” They shook hands, their eyes locked onto each other’s and he stepped back, Eskel immediately followed him, clapping him on the back as he did.

Geralt gave a rough chuckle, a tight feeling in his throat as he looked at the youngest of the wolves.  He had certainly seen better days, he was thinner than he should be, had far more grey in his hair than he should.  He looked, Geralt didn’t want to say it but he looked broken, something in his eyes that spoke of great pain and an anger that could burn down the world.

“Keira told us you died fighting a vampire” said Eskel to him.

“Is that what the ploughing cunt said?” He laughed with a nasty tone to his voice, Ciri stepped back, even Geralt was a little taken aback by the viciousness in his voice.

Takara didn’t say a thing about the language, but a narrowing of her eyes at Lambert had the witcher shrugging, “not apologising for calling her what she is but I’ll try not to call her that again in your presence,”

She nodded her head, “do that, you have one more chance before I start hitting.” 

Lambert nodded, they always got a few chances before she literally started smacking them over the head, the smack wasn’t light either.

“So where is she?” Lambert asked mildly, Geralt wasn’t fooled, the look in his eyes boded ill for the sorceress.

“Dead, her body nourishes the ground in the valley, her head was mounted on Glory’s gate in Novigrad and if I had been aware that she was the one responsible for your disappearance than her death would have been far more protracted. What did she do child of learning and sorrow?”

“Fff- I wanted to kill the b-witch myself, but I guess if was you then Takara its okay.  And if you want to know what she did, she pissed off a higher vampire, I was the one to bear the brunt of that anger and then when I was about to die she disappeared leaving me there.  The bitch could have gotten me out of there as well but she left me there.”  Geralt swallowed at the hurt and fury in Lamberts eyes, the other Witcher’s either shook their heads or growled. 

Lambert looked at Geralt with a bit of hot irony, “should have learned from your fff- mistake, I see the sorceress still leads you around by your short and curlies, what happened to the red-headed harpy?” He nodded his head towards Yen who was directing the blades and the mages with her in what to do.  Emhyr still had Elka with him an arm planting the little girl to his side giving orders to the Guard who now had the chained mages in hand, Geralt didn’t think Emhyr was going to let the little girl go anytime soon.

Ciri snorted, “Yen let go of them years ago then Triss scorched them, its my father who has that honour now.”

Geralt looked at her in horror, “Ciri”, he choked out at her,  Eskel snorted a laugh and the other nine witchers, who had relaxed and taken up a sprawling position around Takara and Haru and therefor the wolves reunion all had a grand laugh at Geralts expense.

“I love that girl,” said Balik to Takara with a laughing rumble.

“Ciri, what would your father say about that,” murmured Takara with her own chuckle, Ciri gave Geralt an unrepentant grin and shrugged an apology.  He was going to kick her ass for that in the training ring.  In fact he was going to have a gauntlet installed just so he could work her ass through it, repeatedly.

Lambert looked at him with a puzzled frown, “I’m obviously missin something, Ciri’s father? What’s he got to do with Geralts pubic hair?”

“Did traveling with the sorceress melt your brain cells wolf? Geralt is the Emperors lover,” said Emilé of Tellra as he took out a cloth to clean his sword.

“Official Fiancée now, father declared it to the court.”

Lamberts eyes almost bugged out of his head, “how the fuck did that happen?” He choked as he stared at Geralt with a jaw all but touching the ground.

“Well you see, when a boy loves another boy then -“ drawled Emilé from his lounging position

“Oh shut the fuck up Tellra,” growled Geralt, a hand came out of nowhere and gave him a stinging smack over the head, he swore, and the hand came again.

Haru giggling as it missed, “do it again Hahau, you missed.”

“Kiddo lets see if I go through another portal for you again now,” Geralt said as Haru wiggled in Takara’s hold.

“Empty threat that,” she said with a laugh, letting her boy down, “You wish to see the Emperor?”

“I want to give him my present.”

“Then Geralt will take you, there is still something that the witchers must do, in the dungeon are the mages experiments.  There are 12 in total, most are in more pain than any danger to you but there are some creatures who are deadly.  I wish to take the sorceress up to the mages laboratory.”

They gathered their gear, Gaven Anders of the Crane said, “We’ll handle it, it would be best if the wolves worked up here with the Emperor and his men.”

They all agreed, and with a wave the nine witchers headed off into the castle ruins, and Geralt looked down at Haru, who looked up at him, his little nose quivering a bit.

He was excited, and Geralt just smiled, he didn’t look any worse for wear considering his adventure today, but he had to wonder about the gift that Haru had managed to find in all the mess. “You have a present for Emhyr? Where did you get it?”

Haru just smiled at Geralt, “its for Emhyr, I have a gift for you too.”

Well that all but melted Geralts heart, “really? What is it?”

“Bend down,” so Geralt did and Haru darted in and licked Geralts cheek, the kitsunes way of kissing someone.

Geralt stood up and looked at Takara who was silently laughing at the exchange, “be thankful he realises that you need a gift too.”

Geralt just sighed and went to take Haru over to Emhyr but found he didn’t need to, Emhyr and Elka were walking towards them, “my men are starting to prepare the area for an extended stay, the Blades wish to investigate the area and the Imperial Court Mages who pass a truthful series of questions will be allowed here to help with gathering the research, Ciri would you oversee that part of this?”

“Of course Father, I’ll hand everything that I have on the investigation to Oxcentis, and I’ll ensure that every person involved in this is rounded up.” With thats she gave him a bow of her head and then walked away, heading over to where Emhyrs commanders and Oxcentis were, a large command tent was being pitched not far from them.  Another portal had opened up and more men were bringing in supplied, Lanfare he saw was with them.

As Lanfare turned to talk to Oxcentis Geralt saw him nod his head and then walk over to them, a relieved smile of the elf’s lips as he saw Haru and Elka.  Emhyr noticed Lanfare and gave Elka a gentle push in the Master Healers direction, she looked relieved as she did he hand coming up to touch her swollen lip.  

Emhyr nodded his head at Takara, “you cracked that investigation open far earlier than we had anticipated.”

“I won’t apologise,” she said with a smile, “I will help your mages though.”

“I don’t want one, I am amazed that anyone survived you - I don’t see Gerantieth, did he get away?” The unasked question was, did you kill him and was it painful?

Haru just skipped over to Emhyr and handed him the box, “here” he chirped, Emhyr looked at it and then opened the box, he paused for almost a minute.

“Whose heart did you tear out Haru?” He asked mildly to the kit.

Haru just gave him a savage little smile, quite like his mothers, “I gift you the heart of your enemy Emhyr var Emreis, Gerantieth will not betray you again.”

Lambert leaned into Geralt, “how old is he?” He asked.

“Not sure, Takara thinks he’s about ninety years old.”

“He sounds like her.”

Geralt couldn’t agree more, he didn’t just sound like her though. That action resembled what Takara had done in Novigrad.... the gift of ones enemy, when she had sent the heads of Eilhart, Viggo and Metz to Emhyr. Declaring an offer of friendship to him. Haru was much like his mother, Geralt thought as Takara reached a hand into her sleeve and pulled out a red stone, a chi no ishi Geralt realised and handed it to Emhyr, “ask your questions and Garentieths memories will respond,” she said.

Emhyr just smiled a cold smile as he took the stone, “thank you Lady Takara, I will find out why Haru was targeted.”

“That is already known, your former mages sang when threatened, I inadvertently broke the bonding spell that had almost formed on you when we first met.  It would have been when I flared my power at Yennfer.  Gerantieth was furious, he also couldn’t get the key reagent to maintain the spell anymore, you had dismissed your previous lovers and taken Geralt.  Haru was taken to find out how I broke the spell, a moot point because Haru has no power of his own.”

Haru looked up at his mother then looked away, his shoulders a little down, she reached out to him but the kit just stepped back, she sighed.

Emhyr looked furious at the news, “it appears I owe you much.”

Takara let her hand fall and said softly, “There is no debt, I am glad to be of assistance.”

“Is there anyway to be able to stop this from happening again?” 

Takara looked thoughtful, “your mages maybe able to come up with something, but I will give you a ring tomorrow, it will be infused with my power. It will stop all spells and poisons from ever touching you.”

Elka, now healed, was looking at Haru, and then she said, “Lady Takara, Haru was a fierce guardian he did everything he could do to protect me, he was vicious in his attacks against the two that took us.” 

Haru looked at Elka and gave her a small smile, “my teeth are sharp,” he said proudly.

“And so were your claws, just because you don’t have power like your mama doesn’t mean your defenceless.” She said earnestly to Haru

Geralt looked at her in pride, his little princess giving the kitsune a pep talk, he hadn’t considered that Haru might feel the loss, upset that he didn’t have a kitsunes power.

“Of course he’s not defenceless,” said takara with out any temper, “and your power will come in time Haru.  But first you must learn control because when it does come at your majority it will come with the full force of a kitsunes fury, it can and has levelled cities,” she bent down to him, crouching on her heels, reaching for him again. He went to her but stood in front of her.

“I will not lie kit, you are a kuro, unlike other kitsune you are born with no power, you know this, you know that in our world you are hated for this.” She reaches out and brushed a coil of his shoulder length hair back.

“Hated because when my power does come it kills everything,” he said bitterly pulling awayfrom her touch.

“Not if you practice control, it is why I have given you access to my power, you learn to control it through me.  Today was a lesson for both you and me, and Haru you have no idea of just how proud I am of you.”

“No kuro kitsune has ever lived to become a full kitsune Hahaue,” Haru suddenly cried out at her, “we are killed on sight, hated because of what we are.  Control can’t be taught just because you say it can.”

The courtyard went silent as everyone turned to look at them and Haru jumped back, away from Takara, “you should kill me now.” He said it angrily, resignedly.

Emhyr looked torn, and Elka had tears in her eyes, Geralts heart hurt for the boy, he had always seemed so happy, but this, this was a deep pain he realised.

Takara stood up and sighed, “I have done you wrong Haru, we should have spoken of this weeks ago,” and then she just smiled at him gently, “look at me Haru, and look well, this is me when I gained my majority.”

A shimmer appeared and her colour darkened, from white to light grey to dark grey and then black, her hair the solid colour of ebony.

Haru’s jaw hit the ground at the sight of her, and the shimmer about her expanded, the humans immediately sprang back. In her place was a black as sin kitsune, smaller than usual, much smaller actually, the size of a palfrey.  

Glowing red eyes focused on Haru and he whined, “Hahaue?”

She nodded her head.

“You are kuro kitsune?”

She nodded her head again as she took two steps to him, lowered her head to nuzzle him and whined a little when she did so.

Haru shifted form and the sight took Geralts breath away. The two of them were as black as night, and in the fading of the days light they glowed in power, Haru leaned into Takara’s legs rubbing against them as he did and only coming up to her ankles. Takara curved in on her kit, sniffing him as her nine tails danced about her sedately. There was so much love and protection in her form as she and Haru touched each other’s noses, their eyes only really for each other.

Lambert summed it up when he just gaped at the two of them and said, “wow.”

Geralt couldn’t agree more.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 20

 

The sun had set on the City of Golden towers by the time Emhyr and his entourage returned to the palace.  That entourage included his guard detail, his lover and his foster daughter as well as several of his commanders. It also included the Witcher’s, all thirteen of them now, who had taken Elka under their wing while he had finished up giving the orders to Oxcentis and Ciri, they had been entertaining her after her ordeal.  

He was still spitting mad about it all, the reason she had been taken - she wouldn’t let go of Haru when the mages had grabbed for him, so knowing that time was of an essence when Takara could move as damn fast as she could, they grabbed Elka too.  He had been incredulous when he had been told, the preliminary questioning from the mages had been very informative.  He still didn’t know if he should congratulate the girl for her bravery, or yell at her for her stupidity.  As days went this one had certainly been full of tension and fear,  and he for one was glad it was nearing its end, although he had a lot of emotions he needed to sort through.

The rambunctious thirteen had the attention of nearly all the staff and nobles who had been around when he returned, most were shocked at their lack of propriety. Emhyr was certain it had more to do with the fact the witchers really didn’t care than any lack of manners.  And he watched them in amusement, he caught Geralts eye as he did and Geralt, who had Elka on his shoulders, grinned and jogged up to him, deliberately bouncing the girl as he did.

“Invite the witchers to spend the night, you can celebrate Lambert’s return here, I’ll have a guest wing prepared for them and you can eat and drink to your hearts content, compliments of the Emperor of Nilfgaard.”

Geralt blinked and shook his head, “nah, you had a bit of a shock today what with the Vilgefortz thing,” he reached up and with Emhyrs help got Elka off his shoulders.

“Yes, but I would prefer to sort my emotions myself before hand. I’d like to be alone if thats alright, and I think it would be beneficial for you to spend some time with the witchers.  Think of it this way, the thirteen of you can have access to the food prepared for the feast that was supposed to happen tonight and to the cellar.”

“You’re giving thirteen witchers carte blanche to your cellars? have you any notion of how much witchers can drink when we’re together?”  Geralt said with a sly grin, Elka gave a sigh and shook her head at him with a tut that sounded like a certain sorceress.

 Emhyr gave a slight chuckle at Geralts look, “I’m sure you’ll try to put a considerable dint in my Cellars, I am also very sure you won’t succeed,” Emhyr said with amusement. “But I mean it Geralt, I want you to spend time with them, Takara will be here soon enough and I know she plans on joining you all.”

Geralt was silent as he looked at Emhyr, Emhyr could see the understanding in Geralts eyes but he said, “you want to join us?”

Emhyr blinked at the highly unexpected offer and looked over to the others who were gathered about basically teasing each other and in high spirits while they did, he was tempted he realised.  If for nothing then to get so completely drunk he could forget it all,  “no, I don’t think they’ll relax if I do.  Although if you play never have I ever again Ciri is going to string you up by your tendons.”

Geralt laughed, Elka pulled on his hand and Emhyr looked down at her, bruise and cut lip gone now, thank the Sun. 

“Takara said I should ask if we can have dinner together?” She looked gamely at him, he knew she didn’t like to impose on him but he realised immediately what Takara was doing, making sure he wasn’t alone too much.  It touched his heart to know that she thought of him enough to worry about that.

Emhyr smiled, it was late, just after eight bells, but they hadn’t eaten, except trail rations. He pushed back a coil of her hair, “all right Elka, lets have dinner together, I see that your attendants are here so go and get bathed and changed, l’ll meet you in your chambers at nine bells.”

Elka nodded and then with a bow to him she lightly ran to her attendants who were very happy to see her, her nursemaid Mari and Arenia both fluttering around the younger girl as they escorted her back to her chambers.

Lanfare trailing behind them as he did, the elf was hovering thought Emhyr as he watched him.  He decided then and there to make sure that he and Lanfare met in the next few days, since he had come back from Novigrad and in particular the Progress he hadn’t seen much of his great great whatever grandfather.  He was going to have to implement a family dinner, once a month he thought, at the very least, where Geralt and he hosted Lanfare, Elka, Takara and Haru - and more than likely two wolves and a captain.

Geralt looked at him, “are you sure?”

“Very sure beloved, go and have fun, I’ll see you in the morning.” He wanted dearly to kiss Geralt but there were far too many eyes watching, instead he gently touched Geralts hand to which the witcher replied with a simple grasp of his own.  He then winked at Emhyr and let go, turning back to join the others.

With that Emhyr waved over one of the major-domo’s ordering them to prepare an empty guest wing for the witchers and to provide them with all the food and drink that they needed through the night.  

He turned around and entered the palace, his guard detail keeping pace with him as he moved through almost empty halls and corridors until he reached the Imperial Wing. Bath he though as he entered his quarters and then he would enjoy dinner with his foster daughter, then proceed to parse the knowledge and memories of the past with what he had learned today.

He really wasn’t looking forward to reading Vilgefortz’s journals and had ordered that they were to be turned over to him immediately, they were not to be read until he himself had read them. 

If they were found that was. 

He didn’t know if he wanted them found or not, he stepped into his bedroom and Mererid all but appeared out of nowhere, he gave his head Chamberlain a wan smile. “Geralt won’t be here tonight, I’ve told him to spend the night with his colleagues as one who they believed dead has been found alive.”  He headed into the dressing room and with Mererids assistance started changing out of his rather soiled formal clothes.

As Mererid said, “I am glad to hear that another witcher was found alive it is indeed news to celebrate sire, and may I say on behalf of the palace staff that we are most relieved to hear that Princess Varelkar and young Master Haru were found so promptly.” 

Emhyr sighed as he put on a silk robe to head into the bathing chamber, Mererid was one of the very few that he could unwind with, they had a friendship that was tempered by position, him being the Emperor and Mererid a servant but it was a friendship all the same.

“Haru was the reason it was so very prompt, if he hadn’t managed to do the impossible, according to Takara, then we would still be scrambling to find them.”

 “He’s a charming young boy.”

“That charming young boy tore Gerantieths heart out with his claws for threatening Elka, and Takara is proud of him for doing so.  It was never more obvious just how otherworldly the both of them are than today.”  Emhyr got into the warm pool with a sigh, it had been cold on the plains of Grohen.  

“Ohh, riding on the back of a giant fox like creature back in Novigrad didn’t make that obvious,” said Mererid slyly as he moved about the room and grabbed items for Emhyr to bath with.  Emhyr shook his head at one of the bath attendants declining their services, not wanting anyone in with him, he would do it himself today.

He couldn’t help the snort at Mererid’s somewhat dry observation, that seemed like a lifetime ago.

“Casual dining tonight Mererid, I’ll dine with Elka in her Chambers and then retire, its been a long day.”

“Yes sire, oh and congratulations on your engagement with sir Geralt, the entire palace has been in an absolute uproar over the news - not to mention the kidnapping and  Lady Takara’s subsequent ahh - anger.” 

Emhyr didn’t hold back, he thumped his head against the padded towel he was using as a head rest and groaned, loudly then swore.  

He wasn’t unhappy with the turn of events, but his lover would be.  

Geralt was now betrothed to an Emperor, so now that Emhyr had declared Geralt his fiancée he would have to sit down and talk to him about what that now entailed.  

Geralt really wasn’t going to be happy, then again it was only going to be for a year and then Ciri would be Empress and they would be retired.

Maybe if he pointed out he wouldn’t need to get back in the amphitheater he would be happier about it, he thought with an inner sigh.

Geralt hated protocol and he had only really just learned the protocols in place for him being a bodyguard and Emhyrs lover, they were completely different when you were the Emperors intended.

He gave an audible sigh, oh well he thought, whats done is done and the two of them would just have to work it out together, with that thought he took the wash cloth that Mererid handed to him and then proceeded to bathe.

 

———

 

Emhyr was sitting at his desk at just past the midnight hour, reading a few reports on the days events and generally doing everything he could in procrastinating.  He hadn’t realised he could excel at it if he put his mind to it.

He had just finished up the witness reports that had been gathered to get a fresh perspective on the days events, when a ball of blue fire danced into the room from the balcony.

He wasn’t alarmed, there was only one being in the world thats signature power was blue fire but this was new.

It ebbed a bit and then Takaras voice sounded softly from it, “if you’re not busy Emhyr and want company, I’m in the courtyard garden.  I’d love your company if your willing to give it.”

As invitations went, it was well delivered, he smiled, yes he thought ruefully, he could do with some company.

He stood up and went to the doors, stepping out onto the balcony and then looked down over the balustrade, she was indeed in the garden.

She was sitting on one of the stone benches dressed all in white, alone, but he knew that Haru wouldn’t be far from her, she looked up at him and gave him a slight smile.

He nodded his head to her and then went down the spiral staircase to join her.

When he arrived she had stood up and was sedately walking towards him, stepping onto the small bridge that spanned the little brook that bubbled and giggled over river stones, in the light of the full moon she glowed. It took him a few seconds to realise it was the moon and not her.

“You’ve calmed down over the events of today I trust,” he asked as he moved to meet her, she was holding a flower when he reached her, she touched the petals a delicate caress that spoke of a gentle nature, she was such a dichotomy he thought.

“Somewhat, but I’ll feel better when I can get Lambert to tell me what has occurred. Out of the three of them he’s the most taciturn and the most closed.”

Emhyr only knew Lambert from what he had been told, closed was a good way to describe him as was self-serving and sarcastic.  Many of the witchers were self-serving, even now.  They worked for the coin he paid them, not the good of the empire, but he didn’t blame them, they were a product of their upbringing and their time. “It must have been a shock to see him, and employed by the one who had your kit.”

“It certainly was, I hadn’t even scented him due to the smells of the place so when I saw him it was a a complete surprise.  He had realised who Haru was or rather what Haru was and turned on the mages, he used dimeritium and with Harus help neutralised them quite effectively before I arrived.” She turned then to look at him and smiled, “Thank you for pushing Geralt to spend time with them all, they have every intention of enjoying your largess tonight.”

Emhyr chuckled, “you’re not with them?”

“I was, I left while they were debating playing Never have I ever, Geralt was opposed to it saying Ciri would have his guts for garters if they played.  Not the best idea to tell them that because I’m sure that will make the others dig their heels in and outvote him.” Emhyr couldn’t help the laugh at that, for a man who was as intelligent as his lover was he could be a little dense at time.  Takara continued, “I wanted to see you, you yourself have had a rather rocky day today and I promised Geralt that I would check on something.”

“Oh?” He indicated a stone bench, one of the three that graced the garden, they sat and Takara angled herself to him.

“Kaer Morhen was the witchers stronghold, but it was also where some mages that had been vetted by the head witcher could freely experiment.  They never saw the library, I would not allow it, but they knew I was there. And I have copies of all their work, I knew about the spell when Geralt asked me, I can see if you have the scar on your aura that indicates you’ve had the bond on you, I can also tell you how old it is.”

He was silent, he did and didn’t want to know, and then he sighed and nodded his head, she reached for his hand and it took it in her own.  It startled him, she didn’t often reach out to touch him, there had been very few times that she allowed it but her grip was soft though he could feel the sharp prick of her claws on his palm.  Claws that could rend meteorite steel.

He spoke while she held his hand, “When I found out Ciri had disappeared from Cintra, I was a father who was desperate to find his child.  I wanted her safe, and my spies spent years trying to find her.  In that time I went from trying to find my heir, my only link to Pavetta, to wanting to have a child on her so that some prophecy could be fulfilled. Just even saying the words now makes me want to throw up, Geralt called me a monster that day, and he was right.  I want so desperately to think it was because of something Vilgefortz did, and yet I’m horrified to know that it would be because I was controlled”.

She was silent as he spoke and he stopped himself, angry that he had spoken without thinking, this was not for anyone but him to know. In the silence she said gently, “you are a strong minded individual Emhyr, most magic of a mind nature would break upon your mental shields, this spell however didn’t, it did what it was designed to do. And he did as you suspect, but if its any consolation Emhyr, the strength of your mind would have driven him mad.”

That explained Vilgefortz’s defection he thought with a bitter laugh, “so much of my life was controlled by the actions of another,” he said it brokenly and hadn’t meant to say it, well in for a floren in for a crown, he thought bitterly.  “The Usurper and his curse, Calanthe, I couldn’t breathe without her looking at me, she never really trusted me, Vilgefortz and then Gerantieth.  It makes me question everything Takara.”

“I cannot speak of the years you spent as a cursed man Emhyr, or for the years in which you were at Cintra, however I can say you had Vilgefortz’s spell on you for no more than two years. The spell with Gerantieth wasn’t truly formed yet and it was struggling to be maintained, it was well and truly broken by me when we first met.  You carry with you the scars of the past, you have made the decisions you have for the betterment of an Empire and you carry the weight it cost with you.  The very fact that you haven't broken under that weight is a testament to your inner strength, and now you have instinctively started reaching for the people that will help you with the reality of that burden when you retire.  You may have been emotionally manipulated by the whims of another, but the cost to him was his sanity and death, you beat him at his own game Emhyr.”  He was silent, surprised at the faith she had in him as she spoke, she looked at him, her amber cat eyes inscrutable but there was a kindness in them that warmed him, “I have watched you from afar since I first heard the name Emhyr var Emreis Emperor of Nilfgaard. The man you present to the world is a vastly different one to the man in front of me, you are still dominant and reserved, still decisive and forceful. Yet when you are with family you are tempered with the benevolence of someone who knows the cost of what can be lost because you have lost it once before.”  She stood up then and smiled at him, reaching out a hand to touch his cheek with the back of her fingers, just like she did to wolves.

“I ruled the same way, I had too, I am a kuro kitsune, hated and feared, hunted and exiled though my childhood and early adulthood because what I am.  When I changed to white I was able to hide what I was, and to this day the only person who ever knew was my brother.  I was terrified I would loose everything if I was found out and I ruled with that in mind, I ruled with an iron fist tempered with silk and velvet.  I was both cruel and kind, loved and feared.  My magic so much more powerful then all my council combined, that there was no one to oppose me yet I saw my empire through six wars and I ruled the longest out of any Emperor of my race, the person I was as I ruled is not the one in front of you.  I have regrets that I will carry until my death, and so will you, but it is how we let those regrets define us that makes us who we are.  We learn and we grow, I have said before you and I are alike and I meant it, you will not buckle under this knowledge, you will not let it define you.  You will grow from it in the knowledge that your loved ones are here to help you shoulder it.”

With that she dropped her hand away from him to reach into her sleeve and pull out a gold ring, it was a simple design, there was no adornment on it except for a singular engraved marking.  It looked like the characters in the language she wrote in.  “This will break any spell thrown at you, or any poison you ingest. While I am alive, you are protected.”

The relief he felt was instantaneous as he took it, and slipped it onto his middle finger, “Thank you Takara, for everything.”

“You are most welcome Emhyr, ” then she looked up and over in the opposite direction, she sighed, “there they go,” she said.

“Pardon?”

“The witchers, they’ve decided to take their carousing into the city proper.”

Emhyr sighed himself, as if that couldn’t end in anything but tears, he had best order a detachment to watch over them.

“Would you mind if I asked you to watch Haru while I watch over them? He’s asleep in his true form but I can move him to your rooms.”

He looked at her, surprised, he hadn’t realised she trusted him this much, especially after today. He wouldn’t break that trust, “Of course, put him on my bed, it will be nice to have his company again when he was with me he was a right little snuggler.”

She chuckled, “he still is.”

She left then and Emhyr made his way back up to his chambers, feeling a lot lighter than when he had descended into the garden to see her.  In fact he was feeling lighter than he had in years, a burden, he realised had been lifted from him.  He stepped into his bedroom closing the glass door behind him and saw a little black fox sound asleep on his bed, he smiled.

Then he ordered Jivarri to bring him some sleep clothes, got changed and crawled into the massive bed, he had thought it would be lonely without Geralt, but true to form a little fox wiggled in his sleep and snuggled into Emhyrs side. 

He relaxed, and before long had joined Haru in sleep.

Chapter Text

Chapter 21

 

Thirteen Witcher’s made their merry way down from the palace through the rather affluent districts of the City towards the dockside dives that they were most comfortable in.

Not that they hadn’t been comfortable in the palace. But after the third priceless vase had been broken and the looks of horror on the servants faces as they watched several grown men reenact their more spectacular monster fights (hence the broken pottery) it was unanimously decided they would leave.

They were soused, plastered, three sheets to the wind and thoroughly inebriated, thanks to the Emperor, may he ever be this awesome, and they were making a right nuisance of themselves in the process.

Geralt, in his muddled state knew they were being followed, they had already bailed up the poor guard detail, having thirteen drunks as lords but still capable fighters suddenly toss you up against a wall for only doing what you had been ordered to do was quite frightening.  

Poor sots.

They had pressed several ladies of the night into joining them, not Geralt though, or Eskel.  They were not interested, and fuck Tellra for trying to get the girls to feel the two wolves up.

Tellra was now supporting a rather fat lip and cracked head.

So as they came into the dock district, which was unusually clean for any dockside area, they found the nearest dive that didn’t water the drinks, and yes they could smell that, and more importantly was cheap to boot.

Geralt had, after two years dining at the Emperors elbow forgotten one important fact about dockside dives, cheap meant nasty.

But he wasn’t one to refuse a drink, even if it tasted like horse piss and was strong enough to strip paint off walls.

They were tossed out after an hour, all thanks to Balik, the bloody Griffin had decided he could fly like the creature his school was named after and jumped off the upper floor balcony, he broke the table in four and nearly broke himself.

So after paying for the table, they left, and then got kicked out of the next dive too when Tellra hit the tavern keep for roughing up one of the Tavern wenches. It had degenerated into a small brawl but they had mostly been hitting each other not anyone else but they were still tossed out.  They left, all of them holding each other up as they did, most unable to walk by themselves and all of them belting out dirty rhymes and songs. After centuries of travelling the lot of them knew more inappropriate songs and bawdy limericks than anyone knew existed.

It was in a moment of drunken clarity that Geralt remembered that he had the best limerick to sing, one that would celebrate Lamberts return, after all thats exactly what they were celebrating and this was all about Lambert.

So with a hollered call for them to all shut the fuck up because he had something to sing, he stood up on the public bench on the pier over looking the water of the bay. 

He ignored the jibes and boos, they were all idiots anyway and didn’t understand his level of perfection, Emhyr understood it though, he thought dreamily as he swayed in the moonlight and cleared his throat, right song he thought as Tellra started spitting on himself as he tried to hiss at Geralt, fucking dumbass Bear he snorted.

“Lambert Lambert, what a prick” he started off and the other Witcher’s gwarffed at him so he continued, loudly to the amusement of the spectators that were watching the Witchers.

He started again, “Lambert, Lambert what a prick,”

“The witcher with the smallest dick.

“He had a good mouth,

“When it went south.

“But a potion had shrunk his wick.”

For something he had made up on the spot, other than the first line he was pretty damn happy with himself, judging by the laughter from the others they were pretty damn happy with it too. Geralt wasn’t so happy when Lamberts fist connected with his jaw.

He really should have seen it coming though, and as he and Lambert laid into each other, giving each other as good as they got, which considering their drunken state wasn’t that good, the fight became a little more intense than it should have.

It stopped when the two of them were pried apart by a vicious grip on their ears.

Then shaken bloody hard enough for teeth to rattle, the scent of pine and snow filtered through the drunken haze for Geralt to realise just who had him in her grip.

Oh fuck he thought as both he and Lambert were suddenly tossed into the bay.

They landed with an almighty splash and then as Geralt was finding his way to the surface he blearily noticed eleven more bodies in the water with him.

They all managed to surface correctly, all of them coughing up salt water, and as they dragged their sorry drunken asses out of the sea a few of them even managed to dragged the contents of their stomachs up with them.

It wasn’t a pretty picture.

They all very gingerly made it to their feet, with varying degrees of assistance from each other, and looked at Takara, who was standing in the middle of the pier hands in her sleeves and a rather unfathomable expression on her face. The three ladies accompanying them were exclaiming over the loose gems that she had just given them for their time, and they were leaving much to the disappointment of the men.

“While I’m sure this is all very amusing I think you’ve all had enough.  Its after three bells in the morning.  You will all seek out your beds.”

“You’re not oooour maaaa,” Tellra slurred at her, swaying on his feet as he did.

Geralt nodded his head, they all did, but she smiled sweetly at them, and suddenly it got cold verrrry fucking quickly.

“Until you’re all back in your rooms that ice isn’t going to melt,” was all she said before she up and disappeared, leaving thirteen drunk and freezing cold witchers standing on the pier.

Tellra said “Fffffuuuck ‘er, the suns not up yet.” 

It was Lambert who pushed the Bear back into the bay, “you don’t fuck Takara,” he slurred, “no ones got balls big enough.”

“Speak for yourself pup,” slurred Balik as he pointed at Lambert.

Geralt, Eskel and Lambert just gaped at the Griffin as Tellra dragged his ass back out of the water, the ice moving over his wet clothes.

“Ohh ho ho,” Varen said as he decided sitting was preferable to standing, collapsed, “do tell.”

Balik made a rude noise and shook his head, losing his balance as he did, “not saying deadly squat.”

Wha? Thought Geralt blearily, they was fighting words he thought, and put his hands up in a classic boxers pose. 

The ice got colder if that was even possible and the wind blew really hard all of a sudden, cooling the lot of them down real fast.

“I don’t care if any of you ploughed each other, I for one am going to my room, I want out of these frozen clothes,” said Peitrev with a full on body shiver that Geralt felt all the way to his toes even though he wasn’t the one that shivered.

Yeah, he thought he could do that, bed sounded good.

It was with varying yeses and curses that the lot of them decided to trudge back up the city to the 1st battalion headquarters, it was then that Geralt was told that it was closer, by a lot.

He trudged with them until a cough and a “sir Geralt” got everyone’s attention.

They all turned to see a set of about twenty mounted guardsman, in the regalia of the Impera Brigade, and a spare horse.   One of the men stepped forward and bowed, “his Imperial Majesty ordered that we ensure that you returned home safe sir.”

Hey he had a horse, he though with a grin, he didn’t have to trudge his drunk ass back through the city — all of it to the palace.

He turned to his colleagues and friends, “perks I tell you.”

“Someone’s going to get perked you mean,” Varen muttered jealously, Geralt just gave him a two fingered Rivian gesture of ‘go fuck yourself’ and then tried to haul his ass into the saddle. No easy feet that when you were as drunk as he was and it was done to a chorus of complaints and thickly veiled insults from the others, most having to do with babysitters.

As he stood their contemplating the stirrups and how best to get his foot into it a town carriage rolled up next to them with the crest of the ard’Enthiel family on the door. Eskel hooted sloppily and as the door opened and ard’Enthiel stepped out, the guard with Geralt saluted their off-duty captain.

Fainrael surveyed the twelve remaining witchers who were in various states of inebriation, Eskel sitting on the ground while Varen and Balik had tried to get him to his feet.  He shook his head, then picked up Eskel and slung the drunken sot over his shoulder.

“Sergeant, split the guard and ensure that the rest of them get back to the barracks.” He literally tossed the witcher into the carriage and then got in after him as the others gave out varying suggestions to Fainrael on what he could do with the Witcher.

Most of it was vulgar and a lot of it impossible.

The sergeant of the detail saluted and within minutes the eleven witchers had an escort, and Geralt was still trying to figure out which was the right foot because when he had tried before it had been the wrong one and he gone to sit the horse facing its ass. 

It took two guards to get him on, and the bastards tied him in too which he complained about in great drunken detail as the guards escorted him back to the Palace.

And then through the halls, which were starting to stir with the servants going about their morning duties, by then he had sort of remembered that he had to walk.

They escorted him up the stairs by the simple expedience of yanking on his pants and lifting him off his feet thus driving his icy leathers up his ass crack, he complained about that too.

By the time they had delivered him to the good Captain Groer in front of Emhyrs rooms, Geralt had told them all just what he thought of having his leather pants pushing up and freezing his balls into his vocal chords, at the same fucking time.

Groer, with a completely deadpan expression, that said he wasn’t paid enough to deal with this, just opened the door and let Geralt stumble through it.  The good captain still remembered a certain night where he’d had to deal with his Imperial majesty’s drunken antics, egged on by the witcher currently sprawled on the floor, he wasn’t dealing with Geralt again.  He shut the door with a decisive click.

Poor Jivarri.

The servant had a hell of a time trying to convince a suddenly very recalcitrant Witcher to get up off the floor, that the doorway wasn’t the place to sleep, the ice had melted the second he had fallen into the doorway and he was gloriously warm.

Geralt ignored him, until a deep commanding voice told him to get his drunken ass up off the floor and into bed where it belonged.  And if he dallied in moving then Emhyr was going to dally Geralts ass into chains at the foot of the bed until the hangover wore off.

Geralt responded to the threat because he knew, from that tone and that voice it wasn’t a threat, it was a fucking promise.

He gave his wonderful seductive lover a come hither smile, he was feeling randy as a goat all of a sudden and here was Emhyr looking scrumptious and he smelt so good, like nasairi basil and salt air, he smelt like coming home. 

Geralt told him that too, the arched eyebrow he got in return to his declaration left a lot to be desired for and was quite frankly disappointing 

 “On second thoughts a bath,” said Emhyr when Geralt who had managed to stand with the aid of Jivarri draped himself over Emhyr, bringing his face in for a kiss, he got a kiss, although it did nothing to stroke his libido.

“I want you,” he slurred, and ground himself against Emhyr.

“Its impressive that you’re even able to function in your current state, and I would find it even more impressive if you got into the bath.”

“Impres’v enuf t’ join me?” He managed to slur.

“Impressive enough that when you get into bed, I have plans,” Emhyr murmured to him, a certain gleam that Geralt only knew too well in his eyes, a gleam that he completely misinterpreted.

It pierced  the drunken haze in Geralts mind and he staggered to the bath, stripping his wet leathers off as he went.  He passed the bedroom and took no notice of the kitsune who was now awake and sitting on the edge of the bed, his little black face cocked and watching Geralt as he took the most circuitous route to the bathing chamber.

He belly flopped into the bath, swore at the sting on his skin and then sat there trying to remember what came next, oh yeah. Soap.

Poor Jivarri.

The servant, on Emhyrs orders had a hell of a time trying to wash the witcher, Geralt objected to having the other mans hands on him, he wasn’t a cheat, he was a one man lover now.

Emhyrs firm voice had stopped him from decking the poor man.  

And he was told in no uncertain terms that if he didn’t behave and let Jivarri wash him then he wouldn’t be allowed into the bed, and the bed meant plans.

Emhyr had plans he remembered, he loved Emhyrs plans.

He told Emhyr that too.

“I’ll remind you of that the next time you start complaining.”

Before long Geralt was washed, he was dried and he had been unceremoniously shoved into sleeping pants, he’d objected to the pants but Emhyr who had a familiar length of white steel cored silk rope in his hands said, “its all part of my plan Geralt.”

He was told to go lie on the bed, so he moved with drunken grace, trying to swing his hips like he had taught himself, he hit the floor once hard, the floor had moved he thought blearily when he got back to his feet.

But he made it to the bed and then growled at the fox who was there, the fox growled back and sounded better at it.

That weren’t right he thought, he was a wolf, wolves growled better than foxes.

He and the black fox started a growling competition that only ended when Emhyr said rather exasperatedly, “do you want to take part in my plans Geralt or are you and Haru going to be growling at each other for the rest of the night?”

Oh right, plans he thought and then flopped his back on to the bed and put his hands above his head, he knew what to do.

“Yes you do Geralt,” murmured Emhyr at Geralts drunken observation, and who then proceeded to tie Geralt to the bed, he leaned in kissed Geralt on the lips then picked up the fox, Haru he reminded himself, it was Takara’s kit after all.

And then Emhyr got back into bed on the other side, ordered Jivarri to turn off the lights and inform Mererid that he wanted an extra hour in the morning.

Geralt was left in the dark, ‘plans?” He asked piteously.

“My plan is to go back to sleep Geralt, you will be joining me, if you don’t sleep you’ll find out that I have no problems extending these plans into next week so I would suggest you be quite and sleep off your drunken self.”

His bastard of a lover then curled on his side and for all intents and purposes, went to sleep.

In Geralts drunken state he fumed, then came to the stunningly wrong realisation that Emhyr was enacting his revenge.

“You getting back at me aren’t you? This is cause the fish nibbled on your dick that time you got drunk,” he declared with a slurred growl, Emhyr had tied him to the bed for a week that time too, and in Geralts drunk and confused state that meant this was the reason why he was currently tied up.

Emhyr just growled, “one more word Geralt and its enforced celibacy for you for a month, and don’t think I won’t do it.  I have access to devices that will make your sex life a living nightmare, and then you’ll see how well I get back at you for that humiliation.”

Geralt opened his mouth to reply but the little sober voice at the back of his mind screamed loudly enough that he actually heard it. It told him to shut the fuck up right this instant because Emhyr would do exactly that, he wasn’t joking.

He grunted and sighed, then sighed again, then wiggled and wiggled some more, he heard rustling and then a weight stepped four paws onto his chest.  A furry weight he realised as it snuggled into him, curled up and went to sleep.

It took him a second to realise it was Haru.

He froze, if he woke up Takaras kit she’d do far worse then toss him into the ocean, she’d kick his ass all over the palace.

She kicked hard too he remembered with a wince, so it was with reluctance and with a healthy dose of trepidation that Geralt closed his eyes, relaxed his breathing and went out like a light.

Chapter Text

Chapter 22

 

Emhyr, fully dressed, shaved and perfectly presented in his usual black and red stood at the foot of his bed, arms crossed over his chest as he surveyed the man asleep amid his sheets.  He hadn’t thought it possible for any person to contort their body into such an unnatural position while tied up and still manage to take up most of the enormous ancestral bed.

Geralt however was incredibly good at doing the impossible.

He also snored when he was drunk.

Emhyr’d had to listen to it for three damn hours, after the first half hour he’d thrown a pillow at Geralt and had gotten poor Haru as a result. The kits squeal of surprise and shock had barely woken Geralt and Emhyr spent the next thirty minutes apologising to the kit and cuddling him.  He was certain Haru had realised that he could get more cuddles out of him and played the game by piteously whimpering every time Emhyr had gone to move. He’d been saved by a softly admonished Haru from the balcony, and then the kit had left him, Takara having taken him away.  

He had already read the reports from Groer and the Brigade who had had the unenviable task of watching over the witchers, their antics had made him chuckle once, when Takara had thrown them into the sea.  Her use of an ice spell to get them home was ingenious.

Emhyr had already dealt with Geralt in a drunken amorous mood last night, the clumsy attempt had been rather cute and he was still feeling rather happy that Geralt had been rather put out to have another’s hands all over him. Which reminded him, he would have to order a bonus for his poor night attendant.

The rest of the night had been an exercise in patience, Geralt sounded like a giant bear, possibly sleeping with one would have been quieter at any rate.

All things considered Emhyr was not in a good mood, he was tired and was not feeling particularly magnanimous towards his lover and the love of his life right now. In fact he was feeling rather vengeful.

So it was with a certain amount of satisfaction, and knowing exactly where the sun would shine at this hour, that Emhyr ordered Mererid to open the velvet drapes.

The sunlight slammed into Geralt with the force of a thousand igni signs and the resulting groan of torment was a balm to Emhyrs rather vengeful nature.

So was Geralts tugging of his arms as he tried to pull them down to cover his eyes.

“Rise and shine Geralt, its a beautiful day and we have a lot to do,” Emhyr said, not loudly, or not any louder than he would usually speak when addressing patrons and petitioners.

Geralt whimpered and cracked open a reddened eye, wincing at the light, “not so loud and who turned the sun up,” He rasped with a groan, squinting up at Emhyr in confusion.

Emhyr just smiled darkly at him, “so good of you to rejoin the land of the living beloved,” as tones went this one conveyed a lot, all of it directed at Geralt and he saw the look of realisation come crashing over his lover. 

“Ahh,” Geralt winced.

“No no, don’t say a thing beloved, Mererid, breakfast is in half hour, please ensure that my betrothed its up and dressed in that time.”

Mererid bowed with a smile that made Geralts eyes widen in alarm to Emhyrs immense satisfaction, he would leave Geralt to the tender mercy’s of his chamberlain and his servants.

He left, still holding the vial that had been delivered to his rooms along with a letter with the most beautiful penmanship he had ever seen, he’d recognised it as Takara’s immediately.  The note said, “if your feeling particularly charitable this morning, the vial contains “hair of the dog” its a witchers brew that will fix the effects of a hangover quicker than you can blink, best served with a meal, however if you’re not feeling that altruistic I completely understand. I wouldn’t either if I had to put up with that snoring.”

He felt sufficiently vindicated after reading the missive and had decided it would be in Geralts best interests to have it with breakfast, or after the chat they were going to have.

He sat down gracefully in an armchair in the lounging room taking the proffered summary of reports from Adventis.  These were more targeted towards the goings on in the nobles households.

As he read them he noted in particular an affair that hand the potential to ruin several reputations, in a household that routinely gave him trouble in the Trade Corporations and that the Viordaniss house had somehow miraculously come out of dun territory.  That was interesting and highly suspicious he mused, knowing that for a family that deep into debt couldn’t overhaul their finances that quickly without it being illegal.

He would have to get the Blades to investigate, but then he noted that the investigating officer had marked the report for further investigation, he did like people taking the initiative and noted to have the Blade rewarded.

He heard a noise and looked up to see Geralt, pale and wan with bloodshot eyes walk through the door, it was a damn sight better than him falling through it like he did the night before.

“Good morning beloved,” he all but purred.

“Why do I get the feeling you’re revelling in my misery.”

“Ohhh dear, whatever gave you that notion,” Emhyr said sweetly as he stood up, “listening to you snore for several hours was the absolute highlight of my night.”

Geralt winced, “so you set your chamberlain on me in revenge?”

“No, not at all,” 

Judging by the look that Geralt gave him, Geralt obviously wasn’t convinced, ”What did I do to bring down your ire.”

“You mean other than the snoring? You were remarkably well behaved all things considered, my reports indicate you all had a cracking good time.  The nobles will have found out that you were involved in a tavern brawl and a street fight by now, if not they will soon, the news that my fiancée was involved in a fight will be most entertaining for them.” He indicated the way to the dining rooms where a southern spread for breakfast had been ordered.  Lanfare had said that a breakfast consisting of porridge, fruits and honeyed yogurt would do well with a hangover.  

Geralt seemed to enjoy either a full Northern breakfast of eggs and bacon, sausage and toasted breads, or a simple bowl of porridge, but Lanfare had warned that a breakfast high in fats wouldn’t help an upset stomach.  

Geralt sat in the usual spot, right next to Emhyr who was at the head of the table, Ciri wandered in  with Elka in tow and the two young women were quite boisterous for the hour.  Geralt winced at the noise but other than drinking the contents of the pitcher of orange juice didn’t say a thing.

Ciri however took one look at her foster father and grinned, “I know that look, night on the town Da?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Must have been good,” she said snidely as she grabbed for a pastry and a bowl of fruit, gesturing for her glass to be filled with orange juice. 

Elka followed suite and had her own breakfast sorted before Geralt who was still looking rather peaky said, “I’m still trying to figure out how my leathers were soaked in sea water.”

“I’d ask Takara if I were you, she was the one that tossed the lot of you into the ocean,” said Emhyr as he picked at the fruit platter and the bowl of porridge.  A teapot placed next to him was poured and he picked up the cup to drink it.

Geralt muttered under his breath and then gingerly started to eat his breakfast, “you and I do need to discuss your new duties beloved,” Emhyr said.

“I’m all ears,” Geralt said dryly.

“Ohh thats right, congratulations on your engagement.”

“Are Geralt and Emhyr getting married?” asked Elka excitedly, her blue eyes alight at the thought.

“Yes they are, it was announced yesterday,” Ciri said with a grin, “although I knew about it in Novigrad.” Elka cried out and clapped her hands with joy, Geralt winced and rubbed the side of his head.

“Not so loud sweetheart, Geralt is feeling a little sore and sorry for himself,” Emhyr said to Elka cheerfully.

Elka tsked and shook her head at Geralt and primly said, “Lady Yennefer says a hangover is completely self inflicted and theres no need to show pity or sympathy to one who has one.”

Emhyr couldn’t help the laugh that bubbled up at her words, Geralts sour expression was even better.

“Yeah thats sounds like Yen there,” groaned the Witcher and put his head on the table.

Emhyr knew he wasn’t going to get anything more out of Geralts misery and pulled the vial from his tunic, placing the corked glass potion in front of him.  “‘Hair of the dog.’”

Geralt rolled his head up to look at it, the look of disgust on his face was a surprise though, “there are over a dozen witcher brews for a hangover, that one tastes like raw sewage and decomposed corpses all at once, no-one makes that anymore.  If Eskel gave it to you I’m gonna deck him.” 

“Takara actually.”

Geralt whimpered, then with a groan sat up, “Gods that’s nasty, I’m almost tempted to just let the hangover be,” he muttered as reached for the vial, a twist of his wrist pulled the cork and he dumped the contents into his orange glass, Emhyr winced, he could smell it from here.

Geralt went whiter as he picked it up, a faint green around the mouth had Emhyr a little alarmed but the Witcher obviously squared his shoulders and knocked it back, although the groan of disgust had them all wincing.

But his complexion smoothed in seconds and Emhyr saw the tightening around his eyes relax, and then Geralt sighed in relief.

“Tastes fff- awful but works a treat.”

Ciri just snorted, “I remember the day you guys couldn’t find any of your concoctions for a hangover, the six of you couldn’t function all day all because you’d promised Takara you wouldn’t drink too much so you could work on repairs to the wall. And what did you do that night, drink too much”

Geralt winced, “ohh boy was that a wrong move, she took all our potions and then she sicced you to wake us up.”

Ciri just smiled fondly, “ahh memories, your groans of pain that morning were a balm to the soul.”

Emhyr chuckled, “I’d say you take after me in that regard, now for another more serious matter, your new duties,”

Ciri snickered as she finished off the last of her juice, then stood up, “Elka, if your finished lets leave them to it, you have lessons and I have an early morning meeting, I know for a fact Geralt isn’t going to like this talk.”

Emhyr just saluted his daughter for her observation, Elka quickly finished off her juice and stood, the two of them came and bussed the two men on the cheeks before leaving.

Geralt stared at the door for a few seconds then turned his eyes to Emhyr, “So why am I not going to like this conversation?”

“How are you at spreading charity to the masses?”

“Pardon?”

“Its a valid question beloved, as my betrothed you have an entirely new set of duties, ohh and you’re no longer my bodyguard.”

Geralt scowl could have frightened the dead, “oh no,” he growled crossing his arms over his chest.

Emhyr couldn’t help the smug smile, “Oh yes, its all quite interesting, its your duty to spread alms to the poor, visit the sick, the children’s schools and give speeches to the students, you are of course one of my offical advisors now.  There’s the Duties to the Sun that you’ll have to learn for the religious masses, and off course the Ladies Solar in the afternoons.  I’m told its nothing but gossiping but Ciri said the amount of information gathered in one of those afternoons was worth the tedious nature of it all.”

Geralt looked positively horrified, “Tell me you’re joking.”

“I’m not,” he murmured and he really wasn’t joking, Geralt obviously saw that truth in Emhyrs eyes. Geralt whimpered and his eyes looked liked they’d glazed over, Emhyr pondered if he’d broken his lovers mind.  

He actually might have.

Geralt blinked and looked at Emhyr, “No.”

“I’m afraid beloved that your going to have to choose at least one, preferably two new duties, I can get you out of most of them by simply saying that you won’t be Empress but my husband when we retire.”

Geralt groaned and slumped over the table, banging his head against it a few times.

“I would suggest the alms and visiting the sick and the schools, you can knock it over in a day or two a week. Unless you want to host the Ladies Solar in the afternoons, I’m sure Yennefer will be able to assist you in them.”

“You’re one cruel bastard Emhyr,” Geralt growled into the wood.

Emhyr smiled, he’d won, “It will only be until Ciri takes over.”

“Don’t think I haven't noticed that these are the same duties Ciri was carrying out until you gave her more work, and you now need a new scapegoat to do it.  I’m beginning to think that your casual declaration to Midhat wasn’t because you were angry about a few insults.” Geralt sat up, a red mark on his forehead as he levelled narrowed and suspicious eyes at Emhyr, “you always have plans within plans.”

Emhyr just gave him a blank stare, he hadn’t expected Geralt to figure it out so quickly, but he’d underestimated him it seemed, he picked up his tea and sipped from it.

“I wasn’t expecting Takara to take control of that situation so effectively but I was angry over the insults and I also needed to highlight that they were targeting someone of importance to me,” he murmured as he replaced the empty cup to his left.

“I see through you Emhyr, you’re manipulating the situation.”

Emhyr sighed, alright he thought he’d come clean, he sat back in his chair. “Yes I am, as good at your job as you are I don’t like to see you in harms way, you were shot the first day in the City for Suns sake so now you’re no longer in danger as my bodyguard. Now you’re no longer required to fight in the Munera, which I know disturbed you, and it has the added benefit of throwing off the nobles who were still dismissive of you.”

“And you didn’t think you could talk to me about this,” growled Geralt at him, his amber eyes flashing a warning.

Emhyr narrowed his own eyes, “I admit, I saw an opening with Midhat and I took it, there was no time to talk to you.  You were in an almost panic thinking I would turn from you.”

Geralt paused, “you saw that?”

Emhyr felt exasperated, his lover was dense, “Of course I saw it, I notice the most minutiae of details about you, I know when you’re happy or angry and I know when you’re upset.  You looked desolate, like a man that had everything he cared for ripped away and I knew you thought I would leave you to sink. That hurt Geralt, that you had no faith in me to navigate the sudden storm. I would have preferred to know I was sailing in it, by the way have you any other death sentences over your head that I need to worry about?”

“No idea, but I piss off a lot of people so theres that, and it wasn’t that I thought you would leave me to drown, I worried about the political cost.”

Emhyr snorted, that was a slight understatement there, Geralt had angered several heads of state through the decades, “I had it under control Geralt, and I would have stood by you no matter what, by naming you as my intended I was also placing the backing of Nilfgaard behind you. If Midhat wanted to press for your death I would have declared war on them.  They can’t afford a war with us, not now.”

Geralt was silent, his eyes reflecting his shock, “war? For me?”

Emhyr could see that Geralt didn’t get it, what they had was so incredibly precious to Emhyr, that he would protect it with all had.  For Suns sake, he had unleashed the Ard Faeinn ahead of schedule on Temple Isle because they had lost contact with Yennefer and therefor Geralt. He had moved Geralt into his quarters, an absolutely unheard of action from an Emperor, he would have given Geralt any title and estate if Geralt but asked.  Emhyr sighed as he looked at Geralt, “I would burn the world to the ground to keep you safe,” and it was a truth he wouldn’t deny.

“You’re really not joking when you say that?”

“No Geralt, I’m not, I am sick of having to give up the things I love most, I gave up Ciri, I gave up what I had in Cintra, I didn’t even want to but I let myself be convinced that it was necessary.  I won’t give you up.”

Geralt was completely silent, “I need to think,” was all he said as he stood up, not finishing the rest of his breakfast Emhyr noted.

He nodded his head sharply, he had placed a huge weight on Geralts shoulders, he just prayed that Geralt wouldn’t break under it.

Geralt hesitated the leaned in to kiss Emhyr, “I’m not running away, I just need to think about all this, I’ll be in my sparring room.”

“Alright beloved.”

“And then we can discuss what I need to do about my new duties,” Geralt stood up and Emhyr noticed the grimace as he did, “Gods Eskels going to laugh himself sick.”

“You can always rope him in as one of your attendants, share the misery as it were,” Emhyr said with a smirk.

Geralt who had started to turn away, froze, “thats allowed?”

“Yes, you can have several attendants to accompany you,” he raised an eyebrow as Geralt turned back, his eyes alight with unholy glee.

“It would almost be worth going to one of those Solars just to see that bastards face.”

Emhyr couldn’t help the chuckle, “The ladies wouldn’t quite know what to do with the two of you, currently a distant cousin of mine hosts them when Ciri can’t make it, shall I tell her that you’re going to add it to your duties?”

“.... maybe, and only once a week, you did say it was a good place to listen.” Emhyr was surprised, although he really shouldn’t be, Geralt and Eskel often went out of their way to prank the other, Geralt would more than likely sit through a torture session if it meant that Eskel would be as uncomfortable as he was.

“I did say that,” he replied to Geralt with a smile, “go and work out, I’ll meet you for lunch and then I have a meeting with Lady Nihara, I want you there for that.”

Geralt nodded his head, kissed Emhyr again, slower this time and with more love than heat.  It made Emhyrs toes curl in response.

By the Great Sun he thought as he watched Geralt walk away, how he loved that man, he also had a fine ass he noted and couldn’t help but admire the view, a few plans that he knew Geralt would agree with readily floated to the surface of his mind.

He tramped them down with authority, he didn’t have time to fantasise about what he could do to Geralt, he asked Adventis for his planner and the reports he still hadn’t finished, taking the time to read them would be beneficial.

Adventis cleared his throat as he handed them to him, “my apologies sire, but a missive came from Lady Ayakashi, she’s requested a few minutes of your time.  I can schedule her in after your meeting with Lady Nihara.

Emhyr shook his head, he had time now, he felt a little silly, but the one thing he had noticed was Takara’s incredible hearing, “Takara, if your free, please come up.” 

He saw Adventis blink and look a little alarmed but in less than thirty seconds Takara was walking in through his study, the closest access to the balcony. He smiled at her and at Haru who was at her heels, both of them dressed in fighting leathers, he paused wondering why she had chosen to wear them.

“You wanted to speak to me,” he said, indicating a seat at the table.

She shook her head at the invitation, “Thank you but no, I won’t take up much of your time, I merely wanted to request to have all the Witchers duties suspended next week on the Friday.”

“That can be arranged, anything in particular happening?”

“Yes, they have a decision to make, I’ve called in the witchers who are still on the Path, those who declined your invitation.  I told them to be here by this date if they wished to have any say on the future of the Caste.”

He sat back, future?  “What are you planning?” He asked her.

“I am planning nothing, I am simply giving them the opportunity to discuss where they want to go from now.  There are seventeen witchers left in this world Emhyr, I once promised the Head of the School of the Wolf that if it ever came to this, I would help those that remained find their way. I have done so for the last two years, ten have answered Nilfgaards calls for assistance, twelve in total with Geralt and Eskel. I have given them a new path to follow, one that will lead the witcher caste into its twilight years and for them to make an impact on the world beyond that of ‘vagabond monster slayer’.  Now they need to make a decision that they alone can make.”

He nodded his head, he could see she what she was saying, Geralt and he had discussed Takara’s actions in pulling this together, Geralt had come to the same conclusion, she was giving the witchers a chance at a better future.  “I’ll ensure that they Witcher’s duties are suspended that day, I’ll also make sure that there are no contracts offered to any of them so that they’ll all be here.”

At any given time, there were five Witcher’s rostered on to train his men, the other five liaised with the Army and if there was a problem that the forces couldn’t handle a witcher took a contract and was dispatched by the 1st Division to take care of it.  Or if a citizen wanted to contract a witcher they could do so.  And they charged a small fortune to do it too, if Takara wanted to streamline the process for him he was more than happy for her to do so.

She frowned, “hand the contracts to me, theres no sense in people dying when I can handle them  so I’ll see to their execution, after Friday they can go back to handling them.”

Emhyr nodded and then looked at Haru who was kneeling on a chair and sniffing at something on the table, “Something you like Haru?”

“I want to try that,” he pointed to a bowl of honeyed yogurt, 

Takara grimaced in disgust, “you won’t like it,” she warned, but the kit just shook his head, 

“It smells good, like lemons and honey, can I have some Heika?” He looked at Emhyr his yellow eyes pleading.

“By all means,” he said with a smile, Takara gave Emhyr an exasperated look but when Haru reached out a hand to scoop up the yogurt with his fingers she stopped him and gave him a spoon.

The look of revulsion on the boys face had Emhyr chuckling, but Takara moved quickly before Haru spat it out over the tablecloth.

“You ate it, you swallow it,” she warned, to which the only reply she got was a pitiful whine. “I mean it Haru, it won’t kill you and you won’t like it if you spit it all over my hand.”

Haru swallowed, and then reached for the nearly empty pitcher of orange juice the second Takara took her hand away from his mouth.

“Humans eat that?” Haru asked incredulously, looking as disgusted as only a child could when faced with a food betrayal.

“Yes they do, now come hand to hand combat training starts today, I’ve reserved a sparring court at the palace training grounds this morning and we must leave now or miss the session.”

That explained the leathers thought Emhyr, still slightly chuckling at Haru, “Enjoy yourselves and good luck Haru, Takara.”

“Thank you Emhyr, I hope I haven't made it too hard for you yesterday.”

“The simplest thing you can do to mitigate any damage is to simply be present, and be your usual calm self, it will simply show that your anger was because Haru was in danger. Most can understand a mothers rage at any harm done to her child.”

She nodded her head with a small smile and then picked up her boy, swinging him onto her hip, “That I can do.”

With that she gave him a bow of her head, to which he stood and returned and she she left, leaving Emhyr to pick up a report.

He had a lot to do today.

Chapter Text

Chapter 23

 

Geralt, feeling great and full of energy, waltzed into Emhyrs office with a spring in his step that told the world that he was feeling pretty damn good this late morning.

Hair of the dog while on the list of the top most vile potions ever created certainly worked far better than he remembered, although he wasn’t adding it to his potions case anytime soon.

The enormous room almost came to a stand still the moment he did walk in and Geralt wanted to groan, he had been getting that a lot since he left Emhyrs quarters. The gaping and hushed whispers - which someone needed to inform the nobles that whispers to a witcher were normal talking - had risen his blood pressure.

And he had Emhyr to thank for it, he narrowed his eyes at his lover who was casually sitting down leaning back at his desk and talking, more like ordering, some poor aid and there was one of the Impera Brigade standing behind him in Geralts usual spot.

Seems like Emhyr had been serious when he said Geralt was no longer bodyguard, but if Emhyr thought he was changing out of his leather armour he had another thing coming.

Emhyr looked at him, an eyebrow raising when he saw Geralt, armoured and armed, Geralt walked the twenty odd meters down the plush black carpet runner to Emhyrs desk.  The people around Emhyr immediately excused themselves by bowing and backing away, leaving the two of them relatively alone.

“And you’re armed for ogre... why?”

“Well if I am to be a witcher of leisure then my leisure is going to be aiding the others with their duties when not involved in mine, maybe take a contract or two, that sort of thing.”  He’d thought about it while slaughtering one of the practice dummies that Emhyr had thoughtfully provided in his sparring room.  He’d actually perked up when he realised he was no longer bound to stand behind Emhyr and protect his ass all day, five days a week.  Not that he hadn’t liked doing it because he got to spend time with his love but the job was quite frankly boring as all fuck.  So he’d hit on the quite frankly brilliant idea of doing what he did best, be a witcher.

The eyebrow stayed raised but Emhyrs eyes darkened enough for Geralt to know that Emhyr wasn’t too happy with that.  Fuck, here we go, he thought.

But Emhyr surprised him, “I would ask that you only take city contracts not anything that takes you away from the city unless its something that is absolutely necessary.” That was unexpected, he had assumed he was going to have to fight for it, Emhyr continued, “have you decided on what duties you wish to have entailed to your new position?”

He gave an inner sigh of relief, “Deal, the others aren't good with curse removals so Eskel has been dealing with most of the city contracts which really only deal with hauntings and some curses, your sewers are remarkably well managed.” 

Emhyr blinked, “I’m glad to hear it, the cities municipal costs are no small matter,” he said dryly.

“But in regards to these new duties? so I give alms to the poor, I take it I’m just go and give coin to those begging, thats new actually, and I’m going to need a speech writer, I’m not as eloquent as you, in fact I’m pretty damn blunt at times.”

“You’ll have your own secretary, and almsgiving is more going with the priests and priestess’s into the poorer areas and passing out food and clothing to those in need.  Its a way to show that the Empire still cares, Ciri often chats to the people, gets their perspective and then lets me know what can be improved. My grandfather implemented it, but my mother hated the duty.”

“Well I can do that, although most people run from a witcher, not towards him unless monsters are involved.”

“I take it you won’t be joining the afternoon ladies solar,” he asked with amusement.

“... maybe once a week, and I’m taking Eskel, if I have to suffer this so can he.”

“So Eskel will be one of your attendants, is there any other, a noble perchance that you might be able to tolerate enough to have them in your circle.”

“Fainrael?”

“Not happening,” was all Emhyr said, “besides those two have a tendency to gang up on you when teasing, do you really want that day in and day out?”

Huh, that was a bloody good point, Geralt thought about it, he’d met so many poncy assholes in the last two years but was more at home with the servants, but there was one, “Baron Ry’ardel’s son, Lord Chrissolm?” One of Emhyrs aids son had just reached eighteen and was floundering a bit, he wasn’t the best looking of kids, teased about it by his peers. Geralt had started giving him a few pointers in sword craft and the boy had grown in confidence, he was a nice young man and intelligent, had his heart set on joining the Imperial household as an aid if he passed the Government exams next year.

Emhyr nodded his eyes approving, “I’ll send the invite.”

The Palace bells tolled the midday tone and the room reacted, everyone finishing up what they were doing to leave and get lunch, it was one of Emhyrs rules, unless there was an emergency everyone took their lunch.  The palace provided a buffet meal for the palace aids and officials and Emhyr often took his lunch at his desk when Geralt wasn’t there to prod him into moving, he was good at giving orders but not so good at adhering to his own rules.

Emhyr looked longingly at the stack of reports on his desk but ultimately didn’t put up a fight when Geralt, who knew his lover well said, “not happening.”

Geralt watched when Emhyr just sighed and tapped his communication stone informing Mererid that he and Geralt would be dining. He then stood up and as the room fully emptied with the fifteen immediate members of Emhyrs staff, all showing proper obeisance towards the Emperor, Geralt and Emhyr went over to the large meeting table near the tall windows overlooking the palace grounds.

Geralt stopped when Emhyr did, looking out over one of the courtyard gardens from this side and over the Imperial Household, the best way to describe it was a palace attached to a palace.  It was where the Imperial Wing was as well as the rooms for the Emperors staff and his servants.  It was all part of the palace complex but not part of the inner palace where all the day to day running of the empire happened. 

Geralt was still trying to find his way around.  

But he had figured out several spots that he could navigate around, if he found the throne room he was good to go.

 The courtyard that Emhyr was looking out at, at nine floors up was a beautiful one, and he squinted, Elka was there with several people attending her.  Which reminded him, “have you considered Lady Vianne as one of Elka’s attendants?”

“No I hadn’t, I assumed that she would want to find her feet in Nilfgaard and around her new family, you were talking with her yesterday?”

“She didn’t say much but she’s not happy, I got the impression her mother in law is not impressed with her sons choice of wife.”

Emhyr snorted, “she’s a bloody harpy, I’ll send an Invitation to her, I’m also sending one off to one Lady Rosa var Attre, she arrived in the City a few days ago, ostensibly to find a husband, which I gather she has no interest in but I thought she might be a good candidate, shes the niece of Duke var Attre.”

Geralt groaned, “Really? You’re off the mark, Rosa’s a right bitch, she has a darker side that has no problems in wanting to order the deaths of several men who verbally threatened her.”

Emhyr turned and looked at him, a slight frown on his face, “tell me.”

So Geralt told him the story about his meeting with the Rosa var Attre, he finished it off with, “while I don’t agree with her verbal harassment there was no need to make such an offhand threat, and she wasn’t just making a comment Emhyr she really meant it.  I honestly don’t think Elka will take to her, our little princess has a strong sense of justice and a casual comment like the one that Rosa tossed out will anger her.”

Emhyr just looked at him and then nodded his head, “I’ll continue looking for an appropriate attendant from the nobility here then.  I wasn’t aware of such a flaw in Rosa’s character.”

Geralt was silent for a minute, just enjoying Emhyrs presence and then remembers something that made him want to smack himself, “are you okay? With yesterdays ah... revelation?”

“You mean about Vilgefortz? I’m okay with it, it helped that Takara sat with me and we had a talk about it.  She put a lot of things into perspective, and it was helpful to see if from her point of view.  There are things I did under that influence that were inexcusable, I now know that it wasn’t my idea, I won’t excuse it but I can come to terms with it now.”

Geralt just sighed in relief, trust Takara, she always knew what to say to those who needed advice. He had asked Takara last night to check on Emhyr, Geralt hadn’t known what to say to him, Emhyr was an Emperor who had just found out that a part of his life had not been in his full control.  Takara was an Empress and he had thought she might be able to help.

Emhyr just gave him a smile, “you can stop worrying about me beloved, I’m still sorting what I’ve learned with what I’ve done but I’ll heal.  I have you by my side to help with that.”

Geralt returned the smile and leaned in for a soft kiss, Emhyr true to form, took control of it, still holding Geralts kiss as he directed the passion that they barely held in check.

He pulled away with a sigh that made Geralt want to toss him over his shoulder and carry him back to bed.

They heard the cart being brought in with their lunch and the two of them sat while Mererid and another servant set out their meal.

Geralt, who was more than hungry by now, the effects of a witchers metabolism, tucked in with gusto.

“I’m glad to see your appetite has returned sir Geralt,” said Mererid with a small smile as the usual light repast that Emhyr liked to order for lunch was set upon.

“Its the best, I don’t know what the kitchens do to the cold meats here but they’re fantastic,”  Was all he mumbled through eating.

Emhyr softly chuckled as he copied Geralt and put a sandwich together, having taken a delight in eating them and putting them together himself, trying different combinations and condiments.

The two were finished soon and Emhyr sat back, a small bowl of berries at his elbow as he sipped the half glass of light fruity wine that came from Geralts winery. 

Geralt had taken one look at the wine and grimaced, “no - no alcohol today thank you,” he’d said and just asked for juice.

Geralt liked having lunch with Emhyr, it was relaxing and if he timed it correctly, which he hadn’t today, he often riled his lover up enough that he would throw caution out the window and take Geralt over the desk.

Which reminded him, “we have a date that we didn’t get to do last night.”

Emhyr, who had a berry to his lips paused before he quite deliberately bit the blackberry in such a way that Geralt knew he was teasing him.

It was a sensual caress of lips, that left a droplet of berry juice on his lips, Geralt narrowed his eyes, bastard he thought as his cock hardened.

“That we do, can’t tonight, so tomorrow?”

Geralt hummed his agreement, he didn’t tell Emhyr but he had every intention of not being the one fucked on the throne, he thought it was far more appropriate for the Emperor to be the one to have that honour.  There was a trick to getting Emhyrs cooperation when it came to Geralt wanton to be in charge and Emhyr wasn’t in the mood. Blindsiding him was a good idea, but if Emhyr really wasn’t in the mood to let Geralt have his way with him then there was no changing his mind.

As their allotted time for lunch came to an end Adventis hurried through the door, “Sire,” he said after he bowed, “I’ve placed Lady Nihara in the Sapphire receiving room, she has also requested to meet Lady Ayakashi at the end of your meeting.”

Emhyr nodded his head and held out his hand for the thick file that Adventis held, he opened it and flicked through the reels of paper, reports, documents and observations. Geralt could see that each of the were stamped with the Red Sun, the seal that Emhyr had for all top secret information, to have anything that held that seal without approval was an automatic death sentence.

“Send a missive to Lady Ayakashi and inform her of the request, also give her my permission to attend the meeting if she feels the need to, I have a feeling that Nihara is here because of Takara.”

“What makes you say that?”

Emhyr looked up from the Ofir file and gave Geralt a sharp smile, “For two years there have been rumours of a nine tailed humanoid creature that can shape shift around me.  Nihara doesn’t often leave Nibras’s side and she’s a sorceress of considerable power, for her to come here is huge and would only be for an equally momentous reason.  Takara said herself she has a reputation in Ofir, Nihara called her the Blue Flame of Death and she sounded feared, awed but relieved to see her.”

“You think theres a problem in Ofir?”

Emhyr flicked through the file quickly and then pulled a report from it, “I know theres a problem in Ofir, I received this last week and thought it might be one of the reasons why Nibras was reaching out to Nilfgaard for a trade alliance. Theres been a sharp rise in deaths attributed to Sand Crawlers, the crawlers are leaving their territory on the eastern boarders in untold numbers.  Nibras can’t keep their numbers down and fight a war.”

Geralt winced, he had never seen a sand crawler but he’d read the accounts and seen the drawings.  They were as tall as a drowner, with claws that could rend steel as easily as leather, tan and brown scaled with fangs that held an acidic venom that ate through armour and skin. The venom could be neutralised by the leaves of a Berbercane bush, which didn’t grow in the sun swept lands of the Ofiri and made it a suddenly valuable export.  

Sand Crawlers were a vicious monster to fight by all accounts. They were however intelligent, they were able to communicate and speak in multiple languages and were a primitive tribal creature but would quite often encroach on human held territory, hence human aggression towards them, and they towards humans when humans encroached on their territory. 

There was a light in Emhyrs eyes that told Geralt he was looking forward to this, whatever the reason.  Emhyr often got that look when he had to sink his teeth into an interesting problem.  It made Geralt think, how would Emhyr cope when he suddenly had nothing to do, retirement was literally less than a year away and Emhyr was never more himself than in moments like this.

Geralt however decided it was a topic for another day and stood up, following Emhyr as he walked from his large office and down the corridors of the governance wing of the inner palace.  

Geralt as he walked, unbuckled his harness, removing his swords as they came to the Sapphire chamber.

Emhyr looked at him with surprise as Geralt handed his blades to one of the Brigade stationed in the corridor, asking him to hold them.

The guard nodded sharply at him and Geralt looked at Emhyr with a shrug, “no sense going in armed and possibly antagonising everyone.”

“I’ll make a diplomat out of you yet,” Emhyr said with a chuckle.

“Hey, don’t insult me,” Geralt joked as Adventis went to open the door, he fell silent when he did, aware that protocol was now very much being adhered to.

Adventis announced Emhyr to the room, his full title in effect, the surprise to Geralt was that he was announced as well as Sir Geralt of Rivia and Corvo Bianco, betrothed to Emhyr var Emreis.

Well he thought, at least it was still sir Geralt, and not Duke Geralt.  And there was no way in hell he was even going to joke about that around Emhyr because he was damn certain that if he even hinted at it, he was going to be slapped with a title he most assuredly didn’t want.

Lady Nihara stood, dressed in pale green flowing robes and veil, her toned stomach bare, but her face veiled.  It was an interesting dichotomy, she bowed, hands crossed in that peculiar way that was endemic to the lands far far south and east.  The guards with her, bent on bended knee to Emhyr as well.

“Lady Nihara, welcome to the City of Golden Towers,” was all Emhyr said as he walked towards her, taking her hand in his and raising her, “please, be seated.”

Geralt went to take the usual spot behind Emhyr then saw that Emhyrs new body guard already had and for a second his brain skewed, where the fuck was he supposed to -

Adventis very subtly pointed him to sit next to Emhyr and Geralt gave an inner sigh of relief, thank the gods for secretaries.

Emhyr didn’t wait for Nihara to take a seat on the ornate lounge, the sapphire brocade velvet armchair that Emhyr took was certainly comfortable looking, and Geralt sat on Emhyrs left in another large sweeping backed lounge, the twin to Nihara’s.

When she sat she hesitated and then without a by your leave, she removed her veil with a sigh.  Emhyr paused, Geralt was shocked, what he knew of Ofiri custom was that a veiled lady only showed her face to close friends and family, never to strangers and never to outsiders.

“That thing I hate,” she said as she folded and placed the gold embroidered confection beside her, she was striking thought Geralt, not beautiful like all the sorceress’s he had met, her rich auburn hair was probably the most beautiful feature about her actually. Her mouth was slightly too wide for her face and her nose more of a bird beak, her purple eyes glimmered in the sun coming in from the window.  She wasn’t ugly by any means but it was surprising to see in a woman who had the ability to change her appearance with magic, it also said a lot about her.  She gave them both a look, “A veil find I to be confining, secretive, much is said by expression.”

Emhyr nodded his head slowly, “I appreciate the honesty.”  

“Forgive my speaking, not used to Nilfgaards tongue am I.”

“Would you find common more to your liking?”

She hesitated, and then nodded, “I thank you.”

Emhyr immediately switched to the common tongue, “regarding the Empires laws about mages and sorceresses, are you aware that you are in breach of them? I would usually order your arrest and incarceration pending an investigation but I am instead offering this meeting as a way to foster good will with the Malliq of Ofir.”

She sighed and then nodded her head, “forgiveness I must ask, was not supposed to come here and no time to ask for diplomatic pass.  Journeyed far did I and was meant to travel to Gulet, but Midhat informed Nibras that the one I seek was here in golden city.”

“You’re after Takara?” Said Emhyr as he opened the folder he still had in his hand, pulling out several documents and then looking at Nihara.

She hesitated, surprised and then nodded her head slowly, “fond she seems of you, allied to Nilfgaard is she?”

Emhyr shook his head, “Takara is a friend, she offered her friendship and I accepted it, by her custom she considers herself allied to the var Emreis house.”

“Look for her I must, for years have I been searching but became important task several months ago.”

 “Is this about the Sand Crawlers moving into the Eastern part of Ofir?”

Again she hesitated and narrowed her eyes at Emhyr, “Spies you have in Ofir are good Majesty Imperial,” she said obviously disgruntled at the idea.

Emhyr just looked at her impassable expression that was so typical of him that it made Geralt want to grin, “I employ the best for a reason Lady Nihara.” He handed her a one of the reports, she looked at it, obviously having no difficult reading the language, she grimaced and then handed back to report to Emhyr.

Emhyr was obviously trying to throw her off her game, and he was succeeding, she wasn’t happy and she didn’t know how to react without offending Emhyr, which she seemed not to want to do.

“Yes,” she finally said, tightly, “Zangvebar invaded, Ofir must respond did the Malliq and forces call from East of the land, but within months sand crawlers come to invade.  With forces committed Nibras cannot the people protect.”  

“As I said Lady Nihara, I employ the best, my reports indicate that it was Ofir that instigated hostilities against Zangvebar, I want honesty from you and you want Takara to aid you.”

She wasn’t a diplomat Geralt realised, she didn’t know how to conduct this meeting safely and was floundering, Emhyr would take that weakness and drive a stake into it.  

“Yes, Malliq instigated hostilities, for insult, I advice against but men’s honour so fragile.” She waved her hand at that, the same expression he had seen on Yennefers face countless times when something he had done had smacked of maleness. 

“Need to ask the Lady of Blood and Beauty to aid our people, she helped once, saved former Malliq and part of family is she.  Hope we did she would aid again and slay Sand Crawlers.”

“I don’t think you understand her,” said Emhyr, “she may help you, she may not, or the help you receive may not be the help you expect. I would think long and hard over it, she may demand more that your willing to give.”

Nihara frowned, “Noble is she, gave aid willingly and with nothing to gain, to ask.”

Geralt sighed, “I’m assuming that what ever caused her to become involved with the previous Malliq was deadly and she responded by killing it?”

Nihara nodded her head, “A Dust Worm attacked the Malliqs caravan,” Geralt swore under his breath, Sand Crawlers were bad news but a Dust Worm? About the size of a dragon and just as savage if it surfaced, they ate rock and spat out a fine powder dust, the very sand that Ofir sat on, they were however incredibly rare, killing them however was another matter entirely.  Nihara continued, “it had travel led through the Dimeritum fields, magic unusable against it and soldiers crushed to death. Then she appeared out of sky, tore Dust Worm apart with blue flame and blood, thought she god when she came but soon disabused that notion.”

Geralt chuckled, “yeah I’m sure she very quickly disabused you of that notion.  But she came to your aid that time with no expectations, this time your asking for her help.”

“Payment she will ask?” She had a perplexed expression on her face, whatever her belief in Takara he was well and truely destroying it.

“I can guarantee it,” said Emhyr, “I asked for her help in Novigrad against the Veloe Tuvaen, it cost me more than I thought I was giving.” Geralt knew he was referring to the elven treasure chamber discovered under the temple and the books and scrolls it had contained.  “I have had Lady Ayakashi informed that you’ve requested a meeting with her, as it is,” he held out his hand towards Adventis who handed him a scroll, Emhyr unrolled it and Geralt ever curious glanced at it. It was official he realised, seeing the ribboned and waxed Imperial Seal with Emhyrs signature next to it. “A diplomatic pass for you to be in the Empire for a period of no more than three months starting from today.”

She reached out to take it, just as a sharp knock at the door echoed, she frowned but Emhyr merely looked up at the door as it was opened by one of Adventis’s offsiders. 

“Lady Ayakashi, your Imperial Majesty .”

Takara swept into the room wearing a light blue kimono with silver fans and flowers embroidered through it, she was stunning, her white hair half done up and her obi a silver and light pink.  One of her tails was wrapped around her shoulders like a fur stole and Haru, in his boy form at her heels in an outfit that looked much like his others but in black and silver and he was carrying a small satchel.  He bowed to Emhyr when he saw him, a serious expression on his face which he ultimately ruined by grinning from ear to ear, “Heika, we’ve come.”

Takara bowed her head to Emhyr, who had stood up when she entered, he returned the slight bow of his head to her and Geralt followed but moved to her side as he did, she smiled and reached out to touch his cheek. 

“Is there a problem with Nibras and you?” She asked, as Geralt escorted her across the room and saw her to the seat where he been sitting, Geralt hadn’t even considered it and almost cursed.

Nihara was quick to reply to her question, “No Shuelat almawt alzarqa’ the Malliq angry yes, but has understood,  a full account has he asked, so that peace in Sirvats death he may find.”

“It is up to Geralt if he wishes to do so.” She looked at Emhyr, “you gave permission for me to attend this meeting?”

“I thought it best for expedience sake, when lady Nihara requested a meeting with you I knew why and thought to facilitate.”

“Hnnn,” she said with a smile, “it couldn’t possibly have anything to do with your desire to know everything.”

“Absolutely not” Emhyr murmured back, sitting back in his chair and stepping his fingers, clearly lying.

“Of course not,” she murmured back in the same tone, Geralt wanted to shake his head, but he looked at Nihara who was watching the exchange with wide eyes.  The two of them were playing some sort of game he thought and it was throwing the sorceress right out.

“Friend you are to the Majesty Imperial of Nilfgaard?”

“Why yes, I do consider Emhyr to be a friend.  He has proven to be one to me, and I am sure he already knows why you’re here and has already asked you what you want with me.”

“Yes, ask your help I have been tasked, the Sand Crawlers have invaded the Eastern boarders and the Malliq can’t aid with war.  We implore your help to kill the invaders.”

Takara looked at her, her expression blank and unreadable and then to Geralt surprise said, ”No.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 24

 

Emhyr cocked his head as he looked at Takara, as no’s went that had been as direct as they come. He could see the surprise on Geralts face, the witcher was shocked that Takara would say no, he wasn’t.

She had said that they thought alike and he thought that he understood her in this.  

She wasn’t adverse to helping others when the need arose, she would assist as she saw fit, and there was more to this.  He flexed his mind back to what a Sand Crawler was and thought about it, an intelligent creature, she wouldn’t target them for that reason.

Takara suddenly sighed, “Excuse me,” she murmured then reached over the lounges back, a short sharp squeal followed as she pulled Haru up and over by the scruff of his neck.  

“Really Haru?” She said mildly to her kit as she looked at the dangling boy, he had tucked himself in and his tail was between his legs.

“Sorry Hahaue,” he said contritely, head bowed.

“Why don’t I believe that for a second, you cannot disturb his Imperial Majesty, you will kneel at the table and practice your letters.”

She put him down in front of her and leaned forward to tap the low resting table that held an arrangement of flowers and the glass of water given to Nihara on her arrival.

“Yes Hahaue,” with that Haru pulled the contents of his satchel out and set up the paper, ink and brush, he did it quickly and Emhyr watched with amusement as Haru with the tip of his tongue poking out started to write.

“Should not boy be with tutors?” Asked Nihara with a frown on her face.

“I am his tutor, there is no other who can teach him to be as he is,” replied Takara as she gently stroked the hair between the boys kitsune ears, they flicked at her touch and he giggled.

The moment however was over when Nihara recalled why she was here, “Pay you will we,” said Nihara her voice throbbing in its intensity.

“Its not about coin lady Nihara, you’re asking me to murder a race of sentient creatures merely for invading your borders. I know this race, I have studied them through the centuries, they wouldn’t be moving west for any reason but a threat to them. Their culture is tribal and land bound, they believe in the sanctity of spirits within their territory and defend that belief viciously.  Have you asked them why they are moving en mass west?”

Nihara hesitated, “why ask or aid give creatures lesser than we?”

And thats where Nihara had failed, he thought, Takara wasn’t apposed to taking life when needed and when threatened she would attack viciously. But he had always had the impression that she valued life as she valued the balance each race brought.

“If I had that mentality Lady Nihara I would never have killed the Dust Worm to save the previous Malliq”

Nihara’s jaw dropped a little at the rebuke, and the cold tone in Takara’s voice.

“I will not murder them if they a fleeing, and I believe with all the knowledge that I possess about their species that they are fleeing something.  I would however give this advice, find what they flee from and destroy it, then they will return to their lands, thankful that you helped them.”

“What could possibly be monstrous enough to make them flee?” murmured Emhyr.

“That your Imperial Majesty is the question you need to ask them.”

“So you will not aid us,” Nihara asked bitterly.

“I will not aid you in killing them.” 

Emhyr noticed the distinction immediately, any good politician and diplomat would have but Nihara he had realised very quickly wasn’t a diplomat.

She stood, “then meeting is over, waste of time this is, thank you must I Majesty Imperial for your time.  I will leave at your command.” 

She was bitterly angry and Emhyr sighed, “Sit down Lady Nihara, and think, do not let emotion rule you at the moment.  Lady Ayakashi said she will not help you kill the Sand Crawlers, she didn’t say she wouldn’t aid you, choose a different path.”

Nihara looked at them, all three of them, a frown on her face as she thought, she sat down and looked at Takara, “find out what makes sand Crawlers flee, aid us in ridding it so they return to their lands?”

Takara smiled, “and what will you give me in return”

Nihara looked at her puzzled, “Gems, golds, silvers, whatever desire you for riches.”

“I do not value gold or gems,” Takara spread out her hand and blue flame appeared dancing before Haru on the table, the kit yelped and grabbed for his work.

“Hahaue,” he whined as the blue flame dispersed and an absolute fortune in gems appeared on the table.  

Geralt choked, and stared at the gems “did you just create them?”

“Yes, they are merely created through heat and certain gases and minerals, when one knows the natural process it is easy to recreate,” she replied with a shrug.

No wonder she had no value for something she could pull out of thin air, thought Emhyr a little stunned.

But her answer frustrated Nihara, “then value what? What do I offer one such as you?”

Takara however just smiled, it wasn’t a particularly nice smile though it wasn’t cruel but it held no warmth in it. “When you figure that out Lady Nihara, ask me.”

Nihara, red faced just stared at her,  Takara however leaned over to Haru and pulled a sheet of paper that he had been writing on, it had only been a few minutes but Emhyr saw that nearly half the page was covered in the language of her race.

She smiled and gently touched Haru, her clawed hand stroking down his along hair, “well done my kit, your hand needs to be steadier but you are improving, come.” 

With that order to her child she stood up, “I will be in the Imperial Gardens,” she bowed her head to Emhyr, who had stood up when she did, Haru capped his ink bottle packed away his writing brush and placed everything back into the satchel.  

Emhyr bowed his head in return, Geralt stood to escort Takara to the door, Haru however had other plans. He darted past his mother and came to a stop before Emhyr, Emhyr smiled and ruffled the boys hair, “if your mother agrees come see me this afternoon when I have Elka for her lesson.”

Haru’s smile lit up the world and he nodded “Hai Heika.”

Takara just smiled as she ushered him in front of her leaving the room to Emhyr, Geralt and Nihara, and a fortune in gems spilling over the table.

“Give her what?” Nihara whispered, frustration and dismay in her deeply accented voice, she leaned forward, her hands on her knees and she put her head in her hands with a sigh of defeat.  

“You are over thinking things my dear,” murmured Emhyr as he sat back down, “Takara isn’t as complex as you fear in this regard, she values knowledge and she values friendship.  Offer her your friendship not your almost reverent worship for a start.”

“You could offer her something that you value, offer her your knowledge in magic or whatever field you study in.”  Geralt replied easily as he walked over to the buffet and poured himself a glass of water.  He tilted it at Emhyr, a question in his eyes, Emhyr shook his head, he wasn’t thirsty.

Nihara sat up and stared at them, “easy you give answer to, hard is it.”

“Not really, but its about what your willing to pay, she could ask for a favour or she could ask for the entire contents of your library, or every magical construct you’ve ever made or journal you ever wrote in.”

Emhyr saw Adventis make a motion with his finger, a warning that their time was almost complete.  

Geralt moved back to the seats, “she won’t ask for more than your willing to give, I owe her a favour I have yet to repay” Geralt said as he sat back down

“Too much,” whispered Nihara in horror. “The Malliq never agree, not to favour or library.”

“Ohh no lady Nihara, you have it very wrong,” said Emhyr softy, “its not the Malliq that she is negotiating with, its you.  You’re the one who has to pay.”

She looked away, a frown on her brow, she said incredulously “I pay?”

“Yes,” said Emhyr as he stood up, “and I believe that concludes our meeting, you may stay here and think about your next move Lady Nihara, as Takara informed you she is in the Imperial Gardens, she often is at this time when she and Haru are in the Palace.”

Nihara stood up and curtsied to Emhyr as he walked by her, Geralt following him as he did.

He couldn’t understand why the Malliq had sent her. What he knew of her from the file that had been prepared about her was that Nihara was a powerful sorceress, in the same league as most of the women who made up the Lodge.  She wasn’t very cunning, preferred to spend her time studying and she sat on Nibras’s council, she certainly wasn’t a diplomat and, other than her removal of her veil, was deeply traditional.

He was thinking hard on how to use the knowledge he had gained today by what she didn’t say and what she did, to Nilfgaards interest, he already had several thought on how to utilise the information he had.

Today had been most productive he thought smugly as he walked back towards his office.

His mind awhirl, Geralt has handled the meeting well.  He was concise knew when to speak up and with a little training could be a valuable asset to his immediate needs. 

Speaking of needs... yes he thought.  

Now was a perfect opportunity 

———

 

Geralt, who was buckling his swords back on as he walked behind Emhyr with a slight smile on his face, he could practically hear the cogs turning in Emhyrs brain, he had his thinking walk going on. The walk he did, with his arms behind his back, it was rather imperial of him and it always made Geralts blood heat because he had a kink that just wouldn’t go.

Emhyr paused before the grand stair case and instead of going towards his study he looked at Adventis and said, “move my next two appointments.”

Adventis swallowed and bowed, “yes sire,” Geralt almost winced in sympathy, it wasn’t easy to juggle Emhyrs schedule and when Emhyr threw it to the wind, which granted wasn’t that often, the poor Half-elf was left scrambling to placate the people who had requested the meeting.

Emhyr didn’t indicate what had prompted the change in his day, he simply started down the stair case, Geralt following in his wake, as those who saw Emhyr, immediately bowed in his presence. 

Once the hit the ground floor however Emhyr turned towards the throne room and walked towards the large ornate double doors, they were open as they always were at this time of day, the Impera Brigade standing to attention on either side. 

They immediately went onto bended knee at the sight of Emhyr as he swept into the throne room.

Emhyr said one word, “Out,” and every guard stationed in the throne room and any noble or servant who were there immediately bolted out the door.

Geralt was coming to a suspicious realisation, Emhyr wouldn’t he thought frantically as he stopped where he was and watched Emhyr all but prowl towards his throne.

Ohhh gods, he would he thought almost desperately, his cock immediately springing to attention at the knowledge that it was going to get some damn quick.

Emhyr swept himself into his chair with a negligent grace that had Geralt all but salivating, his plan to hustle Emhyr into being the one fucked over the throne went out the window, he knew Emhyr wasn’t in the mood to play.

Emhyr merely looked at him, his regal and cold expression directed at Geralt was the exact expression that got Geralts libido pumping.

Yeah he thought, Emhyr was doing this now.

“Its the middle of the damn day” he squawked, the high note in his voice indicating his raging libido and his unsettled nerves.

“And?” 

That deep imperious tone made Geralt shiver, but he looked at the windows, the large massive diamond plane windows that took up both sides of the throne room, then the still open door behind him.

The doors swung shut, he turned back around to see that Emhyr had a dagger out now and had pricked his finger, blood stained one of the stones inlaid into the wooden arms rest beside him and Geralt narrowed his eyes. Emhyr tapped the bloody finger on another stone and the windows opaqued, other stone and his keen ears picked up the sound of the doors to the throne room locking into place.  

Geralt  blinked hard, activating his mutations, and the world blazed with a million million colours, he no longer had the headache but with so many spells about the palace he had taken to deactivating his vision so he wasn’t distracted by the golden motes and sigils everywhere.  

He could see the spells that Emhyr was activating with his blood, and one more tap on a stone activated a spell of silence.  Geralt knew that sigil.

“Come forward witcher.”

Geralt looked at the throne of Nilfgaards Imperators, and the Emperor who graced it with callous cruelty and Imperial command and gave a jerky sigh - he was about to become intimately acquainted with it.

At least this was the last throne he was going to be ploughed over he thought, his blood rising and his already hard cock getting harder.

He gave a wicked smirk at Emhyr, “make me...Emperor,” he purred with all the insolence he could muster, and after a lifetime of neutrality... he was good at it.

He got the pleasure of seeing Emhyrs eyes darken in a hunger that he didn’t often let loose, Emhyr paused long enough to make sure that Geralts eyes were on him. Geralt watched intrigued as Emhyr simply lowered his finger to another’s stone.

And he was driven to his knees.

“Oh fuck me,” he hissed at the explosion of pleasure in his stomach as his knees hit the carpet, hard and Emhyr surged to his feet, his face a reflection of pleasure and a little cruelty that made the sensation in his stomach triple.

This was new he thought as a blush infused every inch of him as he felt his blood desperately inflame, new and so so incredibly arousing, he bit his lip as Emhyr prowled down the steps, his sceptre is his hand.

“Lets discuss your continued flaunting of Imperial orders Witcher, it is time you understood your position to me.”

Ohhh boy, thought Getalt as every thing clenched, it was going to be like this.<\p> 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 24

 

Emhyr took the fifteen or so meters that separated him from Geralt with deliberate slowness, almost prowling down the deep black and gold runner with a feline grace, his cock half hard and tight against his codpiece. 

He fixed his eyes on his witcher, on his knees and with the flush of desire kissing his cheeks, they had done this same routine over and over through the palaces and castles of lords and ladies and former rulers.  And he had buried his cock in Geralts ass on thrones as old as Nilfgaards and some which were far younger time and time again.

They had made a game of it, but with every throne that Emhyr owned he couldn’t help compare it to the one that was in this room. He had burned with the desire to see Geralt on his knees before him, in this room, before his throne and his darling obstinate, irreverent witcher was being his usual stubborn self before him.

Oh how he loved Geralt for it, finding out that his witcher lover had developed a fantasy about Emhyr in all the Imperial glory that his rank entailed had been enlightening and so very satisfying.

He stoped just steps away from Geralt who still kneeled before him caught within the spell that Emhyr controlled.

“I do not need your cooperation to bring you to your knees witcher, look at me.” Geralt refused, Emhyr sighed in exasperation, then reached out with the Sun of Nilfgaard, the sceptre that had graced the Emperors hands for three hundred years and used the pointed tip to direct Geralts head up to him... he drank in the sight.

Bottom lip caught, sweat beading across his brow, reddened cheeks and the glaze of desire in amber eyes, the lavender pupils blown wide.  Geralt had activated his vision thought Emhyr  absentmindedly.

“You always make this so hard on yourself, I can make you crawl Geralt, your call.  Hands and knees or you can walk willingly.”

He couldn’t actually, wouldn’t truthfully, he had never asked Geralt to crawl and never would, beg on the other hand - but Geralt didn’t need to know that thought Emhyr as thumbed a stone on the sceptre, Geralt blinked, his eyes going back to black and shakily nodded his head.

“Was that so hard?” Murmured Emhyr with satisfaction, stepped back and turned around, “you will follow.” He depressed the stone, deactivating the spell binding Geralt and listened closely as he walked back to his throne, he heard the creak of leather and the soft tread muffled by the carpet as Geralt got to his feet and walked after him.

Emhyr walked back to his throne and up the dais to take his seat once more, Geralt had come to a stop at the base five steps below Emhyr.

Now he thought, “approach and take your knees before me, as always.”

Geralt gave him a somewhat insolent look but he walked up the stairs, his tread confident, hnnn thought Emhyr, not quite ready to submit, even if the desire to was almost driving him forward.

Geralt patently did not kneel when he stood before Emhyr.

He smirked.

Well two can play that game thought Emhyr, “you have two choices witcher, you will be my fiancée or you will be my concubine.  I can strip you of your lands, I can strip you of your title, and tell the world you are nothing more than my concubine.  Or if your want the respect that you can command now as my fiancée, I would suggest you get on your knees, or you will be made to serve my every need, drugged and bound if need be for as long as I wish to remain as Emperor.”  It had happened before, Emperors past had taken what they wanted and be damned the one who had their attention.

Geralt blinked, “you’ll what?” 

Emhyr raised his eyebrow, “I don’t repeat myself Geralt but if you need me to say it to you clearer, I’ll inform Cirilla that her tenure will not start in 12 months, and will have it known that you are my concubine nothing more.”

Geralt opened his mouth to reply, but Emhyr just pointed to the floor, “on your knees Geralt, I won’t repeat the order.” He intoned his voice toward the cold tone he would usually use with someone who had his ire and was pleased to see the shiver in Geralt as he slowly took his knees before Emhyr.

“Well done witcher, that wasn’t so hard now was it.”

Geralt gave a trembling sigh and shook his head, Emhyr reached out and carded his fingers through Geralts silky silver fall, with the other hand he flicked back the long tunic and unlaced his codpiece. 

 He tightened his hand in Geralts hair and pulled him closer, throwing him off balance enough that Geralt gasped and had to catch himself, he angled Geralts head so that he was looking into amber eyes full of confused passion, he murmured, “I trust I don’t need to tell you what to do next.”

He let go, placing his hand on the armrest as Geralt shakily reached out and pulled Emhyrs aching cock out, Emhyr hissed at the cool touch on his hot and aching length and held back a curse as Geralt leaned in and with no warning, swallowed his cock.

He hadn’t expected that, he thought wildly as he dug his nails into the armrest and an explosion of wet hot heat engulfed him, Geralt usually took his time before he did that.

And ohhh how good it was too, calm blue ocean, he thought tying to think of things to calm the lust within his blood as Geralt used his tongue to press on several points as he slowly moved back up Emhyrs cock, the pressure intense as he did.

Then he started a rhythm that shook Emhyr to his toes., he was still trying to hold onto the imperial mask that made these moments so incredibly erotic but damn it was hard when his lover could swallow the entirety of him.

He hissed again softly, his toes curling in his boots, he wanted nothing more than to pull Geralt up for a mind altering kiss but not now. 

He let Geralt continue, not opposed to letting his lover have this moment to explore and... ohhhh Sun above, Emhyrs head thumped back hitting the Golden Sun behind his head as his eyes rolled back.

Geralt did it again, his tongue teasing and caressing in equal measure.

“Again,” ordered Emhyr.

But Geralt slowed right down and Emhyr cracked open his eyes, staring straight into Geralts, he was watching every move and expression Emhyr made.  

Emhyr decided it was time for him to lead this dance, he latched his hand into Geralts hair and with a somewhat savage smile, that made Geralts eyes widen to see it, he pushed Geralts head back down.

He directed every move, how deep he wanted it, and how good it felt.

Geralt kept up at the demand, Emhyr hummed his approval but he didn’t want to end this way, he pulled Geralt off.

Geralts lips let go with a slight pop and he looked... glazed, panting to catch his breath.  Emhyr caugh Geralts gaze again, loving the look of red swollen lips and the red stained cheeks.  He looked so dazed, and so needy.

“Undress Geralt, everything.”

Geralt groaned and shook as he slowly got back to his feet, his hands almost unable to undo the buttons, buckles and joins that held the viper armour together.  His swords hit the ground and lay where they fell, a testament to how incredibly aroused Geralt was, he never neglected his weapons.

Before long Geralt stood before him naked, and Emhyr looked his fill, he always looked his fill and his mouth watered with what he was seeing.

Washboard abs, clearly defined muscles, delineated lines.  Not an ounce of fat and a tapestry of scars that screamed warrior with a large fully erect cock that looked harder than the steel that Geralt carried. It throbbed red and angry looking Emhyr noticed, and was screaming for attentional the tip welled with presumed.

Geralt shuddered at Emhyrs gaze and went to grip hold of himself, ”I have not given you permission to touch yourself witcher,” Emhyr warned, his voice a lash of cold passion.

Geralt whimpered, “Sire,” he begged but moved his hand away.

And there it was Emhyr thought in complete satisfaction, he stood up, it was only when Geralt completely let go that he ever called Emhyr sire.

He stepped up to Geralt, crowding him, his arms going to tugged Geralts naked glorious body against his fully clothed one.  He revelled in the moan Geralt let out at the feel of silk on his heated skin.  He leaned in and breathed in the subtle scent of blade oil and Berbercane fruit, and the essence of Geralt that always entranced him. As he dug his fingers in Geralts hair again, one hand on his hip to hold him in place he pulled Geralts head back sharply.

He bit the side of Geralts neck, a need he had only recently started doing, it made Geralts knees buckle and it and it was only because Emhyr had slid his leg between Geralts thighs that he didn’t hit the floor.  Emhyr steadied him as he licked the bite mark.  It would fade soon, the marks always did.

“Kneel on the chair, face the back and hold on,” he commanded deeply.

He stepped to the side, watching as Geralt got his legs back under him enough to carry him the the Throne, he knelt on the cushion and reached out to take hold the back of the chair.

“Yes, thats it, arch your back.” Geralt tried, it wasn’t deep enough for Emhyr, it hadn’t pushed Geralts ass out to him enough.

“You’re not trying,” he warned, and without thinking himself slapped Geralts backside, Geralt jerked, and immediately let go of the throne with one hand to reach down.  Emhyr growled, he thought Geralt was about to jerk himself off then realised by the groan of pain that followed, that Geralt had come very close to finishing.  He had stopped himself by the simple expedience of a tight grasp.

He didn’t hesitate, he reached over and covered the hand that still held the back of the throne, anchoring it there firmly and with his other, he took two of his fingers into his mouth and liberally wet them.  He hadn’t planned this and had nothing else to ease the way.

He reached down, felt for the opening and then eased his two fingers in, Geralt cried out, loudly and shuddered at the feel, Emhyr concentrated, feeling the delicious heat around his fingers as he searched for... yes there.

He pressed one finger into the bundle of sensation that made Geralt give a full body jerk and an involuntary thrust of his hips.

“Don’t move,” he hissed, and saw Geralt give a jerky nod as he panted.

Emhyr stroked his fingers over the spot again and again, each time he did Geralt cried out and trembled in his arms, the flush now covering nearly every inch of Geralt snow white skin so that he almost glowed with passion.

“Sire, please, please” Geralt pleaded to him and Emhyr stopped, wonderful he thought, pleased with it, with that he pulled his fingers out. It was time he decided, his own aching cock was throbbing for release and watching Geralt writhe in his deep and powerful passion made him want to follow.  A passion that he had nurtured and grown until the point where his lover was mindless with it, it was a heady elixir, so much power over the man who had once been his enemy and was now one of the most precious loves of his life.

He gripped hold of his cock, and moved to cover Geralts back and ass, Geralt whispering ‘yes sire, please sire’ repeatedly as Emhyr nudged at the entrance, teasing him, making Geralt groan and plead a little more. Beg a little harder.

And when that anticipation had built even higher, Emhyr pushed himself in, one smooth glide that had a wail of pleasure and pain come from Geralt who pushed his backside against Emhyr.

Emhyr grunted as he seated himself fully into the glorious heat that he himself was addicted to, he had once told to Geralt to become addicted to him, the truth was he was addicted to Geralt, so decadently gloriously addicted.

He took a minute to get himself back under control, the desire to just take what he wanted was so strong, but he would master it, like every element in his life, he would not loose control now. 

Not now.

When he finally had his dauntless control back, he moved.  Emhyr took Geralt ruthlessly, hot hard cock piercing the heart of Geralts heat again and again, rocking him into the throne of the var Emreis ancestors.  Suns they would all be turning over in their graves, he thought wildly as he placed his foot next to Geralts knee, getting as deep and as close as he could.

He swore at the tight hot clasp, the flutter of muscles as Geralt groaned at the feel and the wet heat that only got hotter as Geralt cried out his pleasure.

Emhyr was close, very close he let go of Geralts hand, and reached down, brushing Geralts own tight grip on his cock aside.

He took over, knowing just how close his lover was but the feel of his body and the frenzy of Geralts pleas.

Within seconds of his hand closing over the steel hard flesh it thickened in response to the change as he angled his thrusts to hit that point deep in Geralts body, and with a cry that echoed through the throne room Geralt came hard.  The almost viciously tight clasp that Geralts orgasm brought bought on Emhyrs own and with a grunt to follow Geralts own cry he slammed deeply into his lovers body once more, the blinding heat of pleasure and lust burned through his veins and swelled deep and dark within him as he came.  

And he chased that burning ecstasy, the pleasure that no other had ever given him.  “Geralt,” he sighed in deepest pleasure and he relaxed against Geralt the pleasure washing through him. 

As the minutes ticked by Emhyr pulled himself together, slowly though, he was shaking a little from the intensity of his pleasure, Geralt was almost heaving for breath, barely able to hold himself up, he was leaning heavily on the back of Emhyrs throne.

“Gods Emhyr,” he managed to say.

Emhyr ran a hand down the sweat soaked back and then moved to stand fully up, slipping out of Geralt as he did.

He help Geralt stand, his lovers knees still weakened, “my my beloved, was it that intense?” He gently teased.

“Bite me.”

“Ohh, I did,” he said with a murmured chuckle, “you enjoyed it.” 

Geralt rolled his eyes at him and Emhyr couldn’t resist, he leaned in and kissed him, it wasn’t a lust filled demand, it was however intimate.  A message of love and a gentle passion in its own right, and after the last hour, it was just perfect. 

Geralt sighed into Emhyrs mouth and the two embraced as the afternoons sun ringed them from the domed skylight above.

“I hope to hell theres a place I can clean up,” Geralt groaned a few minutes later as he picked up his armour.

The Emperors rooms at the back has a wash stand,”

“Oh thank the gods, I don’t relish walking out there looking like I’ve been well and truly fucked.”

Emhyr chuckled, he wasn’t about to tell Geralt that most of the guard knew what they did, they weren’t stupid ad he didn’t employ idiots.

He helped pick up the remainder of Geralts leathers and then as Geralt pulled on his trousers, he fixed his own clothes.

He looked at Geralt and saw the narrowed eye, “what.”

“Why is it that after you... do this to me... in the throne room or over your desk, you always look like you’ve done nothing more strenuous than push a pen across the page.”

“An Emperor must be composed at all times, its a skill.”

“One I need to learn,” muttered Geralt.

 Emhyr didn’t like that, he didn’t like the idea at all. “No,” he declared firmly, ”I like it when you look like I’ve thoroughly possessed you, that you’ve been taken to the heights if the greatest of pleasures and you’ve given in to the ecstasy.” 

Geralt flushed red, “oh.” 

Yes, he liked that look too he thought, “Come on beloved, lets get cleaned up,” and then he gave Geralt a wicked smile, “thank you for the memory.  Every time I sit this Throne I’m now going to remember just what we did here.”

Geralt groaned, “well I hope your able to control yourself over it.”

“Control dearest witcher mine” murmured Emhyr as he reached out and cupped Geralts cheek, “is the hallmark of the Imperial Will, I don’t loose it.”

Geralt just gave him an inscrutable look and then smirked, “much,” was all he said as he walked towards the back of the throne room.  Emhyr watched him, yes he thought, there was only one being in this world that had the audacity to point out that Emhyr lacked control when it came to him.

Ohhh how he loved his witcher.

And ohhh how he was going to make Geralt scream in pleasure for the reminder, he caught up to Geralt, pulling him back flush up against his chest and anchoring him, he let Geralt feel the stirring length of his cock, much to Geralts surprise.  He tilted his head bringing his lips close to Geralts ear, and in no uncertain terms, he whispered to his beloved exactly what he planned to do with him. 

After all a certain drunken confession had informed Emhyr just how much Geralt loved his plans, and Emhyr had so many too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 26

 

“So let me get this straight, you’re the one whose been declared the Emperors fiancée... betrothed... intended... bride to be, take your fucking pick and Eskels the one who now has to dance attendance on your ass at his Imperial fucking Majesty’s order?”

Geralt gave Lambert a sharp smile, he was getting a bit fed up with the attitude, he swung his blade warming up his wrist as Lambert warmed up his, “Yeah, wanna join him?” He was looking forward to handing the pup his ass.

Lambert narrowed his eyes at him and Geralt couldn’t help but let the smirk deepen, it was sometimes too easy to rile up the youngest wolf. 

“Fuck off,” grunted Lambert, “I’m still trying to get my head round the fact that you’re shackin up with the conqueror of the whole damn north.  Fuck me, I’m outta of commission for nearly three years and the world turns upside down and kicks me in the teeth, again.  Ain’t that the fuckin kicker.”

“I’d be dead if it weren’t for Emhyr.”

“So what? You shagging him because of gratitude? Gods if your that easy, I’d have ridden your ass all winter if you’d wanted to fuck.”

A slim, elegant but clawed hand came out of nowhere and smacked Lambert over the head, hard, “Geralt doesn’t need to explain his relationship to you, the fact that he does shows courtesy, try to at least show a little in return child.”

Lambert winced and rubbed the spot where Takara had hit him, Geralt was thankful, Lambert’s abrasive personality hadn’t changed in the years since he had been missing and presumed dead, he was however a lot more cutting. 

“What you want me to fuckin apologise?” He said belligerently to her back.

Make that insane too, Takara who had turned to leave the practice court that they were on to them, paused then turned back to face Lambert, “Anger... shall we work that out child of Learning and Sorrow?” She purred mildly and then smiled at Geralt, “may I borrow your blade?”

Geralt didn’t hesitate, he handed it to her, the last five days since Lambert had been found had been an exercise in patience, Lambert was antagonistic, angry  - always angry - and confrontational.  

Emilé of Tellra and the ‘wolf pup’ had already had a knock out fight, Tellra had won, and none of them knew why it had even started.  Geralt had assumed Tellra had been his usual obnoxious self but when Lambert had dragged himself out the horse trough he’d grumbled an apology and then said he needed to clear his head.  

Ergo - Lambert’s fault.

Maybe Takara could help Lambert because he’d pushed enough of the witchers away from him that they’d all but growl at him now due to his shitty attitude, and the drinking.

Geralt left the court and went to sit next to Eskel who was watching, “maybe she can sort him out?” He said.

Eskel snorted, “he’s a lost cause, but maybe she can help him get back to where he was before Keira.”

They didn’t know what happened, Lambert refused to speak about it but whatever it was ate him up inside.

The crash of steel on steel had him turning around as Lambert launched into a series of counter manoeuvres against Takara’s attack, the fight was fast, witcher speed, but it wasn’t brutal or vicious, it was a standard training fight with her.

Eskel turned to him, “whats after this morning?”

Geralt tried not to grin, four days ago Eskel had stormed into the consorts room cracking his knuckles, “What the fuck did you do?” He’d growled.

Geralt who had been in the middle of a highly advanced kata that had him actually sweating a little and out of breath, had gasped out, “specifics,” as he swung the blade to a blur that could barely be seen.

Eskel, stared daggers at him then shook a piece of paper at him, Geralt saw the black one gold seal, “this, why am I getting a politely worded letter that sounds like an invitation but is actually an Imperial command to be one of your “attendants”. Why the fuck do you need attendants, can’t wipe your own ass anymore?”

Geralt stopped in mid form, a half crouch with leg extended and sword in mid swing, he had risen effortlessly, “because my bastard of a lover, Emhyr var Emreis Emperor of Nilfgaard etcetera etcetera saw fit to tell everyone that I’m his fiancée.”

Eskel had paused, blinked and then said,“Wait that actually happened? I though Ciri was pulling your leg again”

“Yeah it damn well happened, it wasn’t suppose to be announced, we were going to quietly marry a few days after Ciri’s coronation.”

Eskels jaw had hit the ground, “you what?” He’d rasped, incredulous at Geralts announcement.

Geralt hadn’t told Eskel that he had agreed to Emhyrs proposal, in fact he hadn’t told his friend that Emhyr had even asked, “We’re getting married.” And gods it just sounded... strange to say he’d thought, but it was something he now knew he wanted.

Geralt had looked at Eskel and grinned, for once, he’d managed to shock him so bad the other witcher had just stared at Geralt his eyes almost bugging out of his head.

He’d given him a few minutes, “hurgh... ahh... whoa, I mean .... congratulations?”

“Thanks.” 

Eskel was silent for a while then had looked back at the paper in his hand,“ so now that everyone knows, why do you need attendants?”

“Good fucking question, I now have new duties, no bodyguarding and I apparently need my arse wiped.”

Eskel had just grimaced, “I was fucking joking about the arse wiping so you’d better be joking too.  And I ain’t bloody kissing it either, thats Emhyrs job.”

Geralt had given him the two finger salute and sheathed his sword, then walked towards the one of the many racks in the room to place the weapon back and reached for a rag.  “If I have to give alms to the poor, rousing speeches to children to stay in school and hold hands with invalids, you’re suffering with me.  Because damned if I’m going to host the Ladies Solar in the afternoon without you, my brother by my side and at my back.” He used the rag to wiped the sweat off his face and his neck.

Eskel had just given him a flat stare and a low growl, “you know wolf theres such a thing as over sharing responsibilities, and this is a classic example of it.”

“You abandoning me in my darkest hour?”

Eskel had snorted, “I can’t stress enough just how much you’re going to owe me for this,” 

Geralt had known he’d won and then grinned at Eskel, “we can always see how far I can create a scandal before Emhyr sits me down for a talk.” He’d had every intention of it too, if for no other reason than to get his own back at Emhyr, Geralt didn’t care for politics and if he insulted some highborn lady because he was himself than so be it.  Emhyr’d just have to deal with it.

Eskel had just looked at him, his eyebrow raised, “he won’t sit your ass down to talk wolf, he’d tie it up and take the most creative approach to it. But I’m more worried he’ll blame me and tell Fainrael to use some demon cursed device on me again or seibet.”

Those words had rung true then, and now a few days both had been on their best behaviour when it came to Geralts new duties.

They weren’t idiots.

“We’re meeting with High Priest Lord Carranis, he’s the one thats actually in charge of the Church of the Great Sun, okay guy.  I’ve met him a few times.”

Carranis was around Emhyrs age, a lord in his own right, and related to the var Attre house.  He was a firm believer in the Great Sun and in his duties as its high priest.  Emhyr might be the Cardinal High Priest and therefor the head of the church but Carranis led it and most of its ceremonies.  He knew that Ciri had lessons with the guy for an afternoon a week in an effort to get her up to scratch for when she took over her fathers position in the church. 

 “Is this for the almsgiving part of your duties?”

“Yeah, Corbin’ll meet us there.”

And then there was Master Corbin, Geralts brand spanking new secretary, Geralt was convinced the man was related to Mererid or that Mererid had somehow managed to split himself in two.  Corbin didn’t look like the Chamberlain, but his facial expression matched to a tee, he was dour, had no sense of amusement and did not like deviation from the days schedule.  Geralt didn’t like schedules, and now he had one.

The last four days had been, interesting.

Currently he and Eskel were in the training grounds for the 1st division, as they had been for the last few days as well.  They both spent a lot of time in the mornings with Lambert, going through their Kata’s and training with him, trying to bring the wall down as much as they could.  

It wasn’t working.

Lambert’d been pissed when they had told him that the keep was being rebuilt, refusing to listen to their reasons.  He had shouted that it should be left alone, a relic of the past and it should have remained there, he had then torn four practice dummies to shreds with just his dagger.

That had been the first clue to them all that he wasn’t the best mentally, Takara was spending a lot of time in the grounds as well because of it, he was a fight waiting to happen.  Until today she hadn’t done much but be gentle with Lambert.   Geralt was of the opinion you just needed to smack him about a bit to reset his head, he’d said as much too, the resounding ass kicking he got from Takara yesterday had been enough for him to never want to say it again.

Eskel and Geralt took the time to tend their blades, Eskel going over both his and Geralt going over his silver one as Takara had the other, they were mostly done, trying to ignore Takara as she spoke to Lambert while they were fighting. She was asking him questions, making observations.  Geralt realised she was trying to get him to open up, until suddenly Lambert stopped in mid form, and pulled back.

“I’m fuckin done Takara,” he growled, “no more, I don’t want to talk about it.”

“You are letting the anger overtake you child,” 

“And don’t fucking call me that anymore.”

“Lambert -“

“No, I’ve had it, I’m fucking out of here,” he turned around and started to storm off the court, both Geralt and Eskel getting to their feet, both extremely worried.  

They had only just found him, and he was so close to doing something they would all regret.

But Takara had other ideas, she spoke, her words in a dark rhotic tone, the accent flawless and not her own, the language Geralt had only heard in a few curse words from Regis, “mostra il tuo collo, schiavo del sangue.”

Lambert reacted immediately, he turned, his blade back up and out as he came at Takara with hatred and murder in his eyes.  

And he fought.

They didn’t intervene but they watched as the fight turned vicious, not from Takara but from Lambert, he screamed words in the same tongue at her, his sword whirling at a spread many would not be able to keep up with.

vaffanculo”

“Ti Uccidero

 And he didn’t stop, but he wasn’t thinking, she could have taken him down repeatedly but she let him have his head. A few of the others came out to see what the noise was about and Tellra stepped up beside him. 

“Well, it didn’t take her long to get him to break”

“It that was some dig at -“ Geralt snapped

“Calm down wolf it wasn’t, he needs to let the rage out, thats what I said to him the other day.  She broke through mine by showing me the truth, Lamberts - well look at him, he needs a target and she just made herself one.”

Geralt had to agree, he didn’t know what she said but it had certainly triggered Lamberts reaction.

The next hour was painful to watch, Lamberts rage ebbed and flowed as Takara pulled at him, she didn’t go easy on him. If his rage was coming down she often said something in that language to set him off again, until it was sheer exhaustion that made Lambert sway and drop his sword.

Takara dropped hers and pulled Lambert into her arms, embracing him as a deep wracking sob tore through him, the youngest of the witchers legs went out from under him and Takara eased them both to the ground. 

And she didn’t let go of him.

It hurt to see Geralts heart ached, but when Eskel moved to go to them, she looked up, a bitter anger in her own amber eyes. She shook her head and her power welled up around the two of them, “Haru”, she called and the boy who had been watching from the sidelines darted over and into the blue flame, within seconds she, Lambert and the kit disappeared.

“What fuck the did she say to him to set him off?” said Varen.

“No idea, but I’m certain that was the vampires language.  I don’t even want to imagine what Lambert went through if he fought like that, and he can speak the language too, it says he spent a lot of time among those creatures.”

Geralt took in a deep breath at Emilés words, the Bear was right, they all had suspicions but Lambert had all but told them in his fight that he had been treated badly by a higher vampire.  Takara had made herself a target by speaking it’s language  to him, and Lambert had fought as hard as he could to destroy the target. Geralt remembered what he had seen and read in Teshum Mutna, he now had a feeling that Lambert had been a blood slave. 

He swallowed the tight feeling at the back of his throat, fuck he thought.

———

 

Lambert broke, again.

He sobbed into the arms that held him once more, the scent of pine and cold stone and the undefinable pure scent that was Takara flooded his senses as he pressed his forehead into the breast bone of the female who held him, she was safe.

The blind rage that had fuelled his fight with her was breaking apart, the red fog clearing, he knew who he had been fighting with, had known on a deeper level who it was, but when she had told him to bare his throat and then called him a blood slave he had reacted.

His mind immediately thinking he was back in that hell again, and with every word she said the red rage had taken over his mind and he fought like a cornered wolf.  Until the fight in him had left and he couldn’t do it anymore.  The medallion around his neck hummed and he knew that she was calling in her power.

“We’re going home kit,” she murmured in his ear and he relaxed against her, because no matter what he had said in the past, Kaer Morhen was home, even if not all the memories there were the best.

He sighed and closed his eyes as the cool kiss of the extraordinary power she controlled flowed through him and something in him shifted, then he knew no more.

He woke in the library.

He knew he was in the library because of the scent of paper and ink, of the leather and wood that bound the pages together. There was the scent of metals and stone and the undercurrent of Takara, her very essence almost written into the pages and walls of Kaer Morhens Library.

He knew he’d been asleep, the exhaustion that had plagued his waking hours for years because his nights were plagued by nightmares was gone. He was lying on a nest of cloth, it was comfortable, but he felt the need to be up.

Lambert stood up and winced, his muscles tight and sore, not unsurprising after a fight like the one he’d had with Takara, he needed to apologise to her for it he thought, fuck he hated apologies.

He focused, the library was always quite, its quite solitude a balm to his aching soul, he stretched and walked into the corridor, noting that she had changed him out of his borrowed leather armour and into a robe, a yukata he remembered her calling it. He sighed, if she had changed him, then she had seen the scars, all of them, fuck, he was riddled with bite marks, and some of them in the most - uncomfortable of places.

He knew the library like the back of his hand, well most of it and it took no time to realise he was on the bottom floor, the tiles were different here and she had placed him in an area where voices wouldn’t disturb him, one of the ‘quite zones’, the areas where the echoes wouldn’t reach.  He walked into the map section of the library, it had been his favourite place here when he had first come down the steps and seen the treasure that Kaer Morhen held, even at eleven he had known the value of what he saw.

He stopped as the memories came, and for the first time in years he let them flow through him.

He had come to Kaer Morhen as a kid of about eight years old, angry and he’d been missing his mother.  The first three years of training had been hard, his belligerent attitude with everyone had made him few friends and the trainers weren’t easy on him. And then one day, with true winter on the horizon as the snows had just started, the witchers had suddenly become very restless, excited, and the name Takara had been on the trainers and the returned Witchers lips.  

He’d heard the name before but because he didn’t want to be punished by more chores he hadn’t done any asking, it was one of his fellow cadets, his only friend who had enlightened him.

“She’s back!”  Voltehre cried out as he almost fell into Lamberts lap while he was sharpening one of the many bloody swords the witchers kept in the armoury.

Lambert swore, as he reflexively pulled the sword back, “Thrice damn it Voltehre, you trying to stab yourself you silly clutch, Whose got you in such a tizzy?”

“Takara, the Lady who Walks the Keep... oh thats right, you wouldn’t have met her, she left before you arrived here.”

“You mean forced here.”

“Forced here, arrived here, came here, its all the same Lambert, anyway she’s returned.”

“Is that why our lords and masters seem to be less uptight?”

“Yeah, Tarvin’s ordered a feast or tonight, they’re cracking out the mead and ale barrels that they were saving for winter and the kitchens ramped up the dinner menu, we have to get down there.  We’re on potato duty.

Lambert whined, “its the kitchen staffs duty,” but he was surprised that Tarvin, the head witcher would be ordering a feast.

“Its all hands now.”

It had left Lambert wondering as he had packed up the gear in the armoury and then followed his friend up to the massive kitchens that fed the keep.

And boy how, the witchers and the keeps servants could damn well move when they wanted too, barrels of salted pork, pickled fish and wheels of cheese where being rolled out of the cellars. Another two deer were on the spit, starting to roast, more chicken and ducks had been slain and were being dressed. The production in the kitchen having tripled in just the short time he’d been down in the armoury.  

And the mood had changed too, everyone was - happy?

Who the hell was this woman that made the keep act like Belleteyn had come?

He did what he was told to do and started on the potato’s, he didn’t need another punishment.  Although he had to give it to the witchers, they didn’t hit to punish, sure he got a cuff round the ears or the strap if he’d done something really bad, but they didn’t beat on him like his old man would.  Nah they gave you extra chores, chores that you hated, hence the reason why he was oiling and sharpening the armoury’s blades, not that they needed sharpening the things were already honed.

After he’d peeled what felt like every potato ever grown he was told to go back to his duties in the armoury.

Lambert had groaned so loud, “Hells blast”, he muttered as he stormed into the room, throwing back the heavy oak door with enough force that it actually bounced back a bit, no mean feat for a boy of eleven.  

He wanted to go back to his room and read.

He stomped into the massive chamber and came to a complete stop. There was a creature in the armoury, he realised, his heart leaping into his throat as he saw the white furred mass of tentacles dancing softly near the cupboards and shelves.

He wracked his brain through the lessons and the books he had read, krayans, nope not a krayan, maybe it was some sort of hybrid.

He stepped lightly to one of the racks and as carefully as he could he silently picked up a silver blade, excitement coursing with fear.  Lambert tiptoed up toward the mass of white tentacles, bringing the blade up just as Vesemir had taught them. He observed, he remembered, taking in the killing field as one of the trainers had said, watch your surrounds before you engage, take in the killing field, and use the terrain to your advantage.

The mass was in between two of the rows of storage shelves, right at the end of one of the rows, he could push it back into the row, and it wouldn’t have any ability to manoeuvre about much.

Decided he ran at it, word pointed and he came about the stack and the tentacles streamed back, moving fast into the row as someone turned around.

He came face to face with a woman, the tentacles now at her back, he flicked the sword to the side so he didn’t skewer her, “move you stupid wench,” he cried out at her.  And tried to dart behind her to get to whatever that thing was. He was stopped by the simple expedience of the woman taking hold of his sword, he didn’t know how it was suddenly in her hand.

“My my you’re energetic child, my tails mean you no harm.” 

He backed up, tails? He thought and then took his focus of the - tentacles and back to the woman, a woman who had canine ears on her head. 

Ohhh fuck, he thought shes not human.

“What the fuck are you?” He squawked, completely at a loss, he had no clue what she was, he hadn’t read about what ever she was before and he had read everything he could read in the depository, she must be a new hybrid.

She raised one elegant white brow at him, “A kitsune, and young boys should at least show their elders respect, I do not care for language such as that.”

 “So the fuck what? You can’t be here.”

“Oh?” She smiled at him, and his unease deepened, she had fangs,“Who are you child? I do not recognise you so you must be one of the cadets brought in while I was away.”

She, it had his sword, so now he had to bluff, “If the witchers find you, they’ll kill you.  They kill monsters.” That bit was true though.

She cocked her head at him, a thoughtful expression on her face, “and just because I am different I am a monster? Is that what you are taught, I must have words with Tarvin if that is so?”

He paused, no they weren’t taught that, she was intelligent, but something wasn’t right, he looked her over.  Assess remember he thought,  she held the sword as if she knew what she was doing in one hand and held a bottle of blade oil in the other, she was dressed in some weird blue robe like thing with a wide belt.  

She was really pretty, he thought, so much prettier than his Ma and his Ma had been the most beautiful woman he had known. She had long white hair, perfect lips, and elegant nose and then he noticed the eyes, she had witcher eyes, “What... are you a witcher?”

Her eyes gleamed in amusement, “No, but I do train them, when they’re older.”

He thought back to what he had been hearing while he was in the kitchen, he had found out you could learn a lot if you listened to the gossip.

The witchers and the older boys were talking about training with Takara, he had a funny suspicion, he swallowed, “You’re Takara aren’t you?” 

“Yes, and you still haven’t told me your name child.”

“Lambert,” he blurted, he was in so much trouble he thought, the trainers were going to whomp him good, “uhh, sorry.”

 She stepped towards him, and he backed up more, clearing the shelves, she swept past and headed for the rack of silver swords, “What for?” She asked gently

“Attacking you, ah but I attacked your... uh... tails?”

“There is no need for an apology, you thought there was a reason to attack, although I have to admit it was a first for me.  My tails by themselves have never been attacked before.” She placed the sword back and then turned to look at him again, “its been a pleasure young master Lambert I look forward to tomorrow, I’ll be taking over your studies from Master Faloncar now that I’m back.”

He gaped at her as she nodded her head to him a slight smile on her lips and then left the room, one of her tails closing the door behind her.

“Bloody hell,” he whispered.

He came back to himself and turned to look at the woman whose hand had pierced his reverie, she hadn’t changed a day since he had first met her.

“You’re awake.”

“Yeah, must have needed the sleep.”

“You’ve been asleep three days child.”

Fuck, he thought, that long? “Best I’ve felt in... forever, I was just remembering the first time I met you.”

She smiled and chuckled lightly, tucking his arm in her own as they started walking through the map section, the large cabinets and draws held vast amounts of maps and diagrams. 

“The day you attacked my tails,” she said fondly to him.

He blushed, “you won’t ever let me forget that will you?”

“Not a chance, it’s my fondest memory of you.” 

He groaned, then muttered, “why can’t I have a better fonder memory, like the time I caught that wood rat that was eating those books in the old guard house.”

“Because you got blood all over the books, I took forever for the smell of blood to dissipate from them.”

“Oh yeah, thats right.”

They came out of the map section of the library, passing the white marble columns and under the vaulted ceilings of the floors above them and into the rows of books, this section on the bottom floor dealt in travel, there were journals of travellers, explorers and adventurers.  Books on the wonders of such places as Zerikania and Ofir  here with this world and books on other worlds.  Most he didn’t believe, there was no way that there was a land were woman were the warriors and the men the child rearers and worlds where they could travel among the stars in ships.

His breath caught, she was leading him to her rooms he realised.  He had never been there before, very few witchers had and only those with an invitation, she guarded her privacy.

With a simple tongue of blue fire, she touched the illusion of mosaics and it dispersed into a wide doorway and a tunnel of stone steps leading deeper into the mountain.

“Come.”

She led him down stone steps that had been worn down over the centuries, lit by the blue flame that she had left in the sconces.  After a hundred or so meters they came into a large cavern and he froze his breath seizing in his chest.  It was tall, at least eight meters high and there were mage spells set into the ceiling that lit the room as bright as day. She had carved screens sectioning the cavern into smaller areas, he saw a bedroom with a thick mattress on the floor, a meditation room and a sparring area, the screens carved into pattens he hadn’t seen before. There was a library with books and scrolls, an area for when she embroidered, her tools and a loom set up for her work. There were woven mats of green grasses, tapestries that lined the walls with scenes of creatures he didn’t know existed, there were weapons, not just swords but glaives and spears anchored on the walls as well.  The room was... foreign he thought, it spoke of another culture, a world far far away, a world she had tried to recreate here, her home.

She brought him to a low set table, where Haru sat and was writing, his little tongue poking out as he concentrated on the paper in front of him, there were open scrolls over the table, scrolls in a language he didn’t know but recognised as Takara’s.

He sat on the cushion she pointed him to and she disappeared.

“She got you studying kiddo?”

“Yes, Hahaue says that an idle mind is not a working mind.”

He remembered that saying, she quite often said it before giving you more subjects to study. “what are you studying?” He asked Haru.

“I’m learning my words,” the kit said as he carefully moved the brush across the page.

“Oh, shouldn’t you be studying a language that’s used here?” He didn’t get why Takara would be teaching him what amounted to a dead language.

“I already know Nilfgaardian and the Common tongue, I learned that by watching you humans and Emhyr, and Hahaue has the history of our world Nivon and her journals written in Nivonese.”

A tray was set before Lambert filled with fruits and berries, a pitcher of water and a heaping bowl of hot venison stew.  He was thankful for it all but would have preferred something stronger, he’d been drinking to numb the pain so he was used to alcohol at all hours.

“The workers at the camp gave me a small pot of stew last night, I thought you would rouse this day.”

She knelt beside him, and then looked over the boys work, one clawed finger gently tapped the paper, “you spelt Watatsumi no Ryujin incorrectly my kit,” she murmured to him and then switched languages to gently teach the boy.  The words were lyrical and he was lost in them for a minute wondering what she had said.

He shook his head and then look at his breakfast, and suddenly for the first time in ages he felt hungry enough to eat a horse, he tucked in with a single minded focus.

Before long he sat back replete and looked up into amber eyes that were laughing at him, he narrowed his own at the boy, “whats so fu- funny?”

“You have sauce on your nose.” 

He rubbed his nose and grimaced, then looked at Takara, “how are you feeling?” she said.

“Better, better than I’ve felt in a long time, that fight released... something.”

“Anger and rage festers within the psyche, there are times when to release it you need to fight it.”

“That why you painted a target on your back?”

“Yes, and I would do it again if need be.  But unless you start to talk it through the rage will return Lambert.”

“Talking doesn’t help.

“But it does, talking helps you come to terms with what was done, it helps you to sort out the emotions that fester and roil within.”

He was silent, he knew her words as truth, but in speaking about it, he would have to remember it, it he felt cornered and bitter because of it, if she wanted to hear it? “Wanna hear the whole sob story, its fucking nuts.” He grunted at her, “I’m gonna need something a lot stronger than this.” He picked up the still full water pitcher and sloshed it about.

He waited for her to say something about his language and his attitude but she said nothing to him, just turned to the boy, “do you wish to bring the humans their meat for tonight’s dinner?”

Haru’s eyes widened, “can I?” He asked excitedly.

Lambert watched bemused as Takara just smiled and then said, “then let us go, and while you hunt my kit Lambert can tell me his story, under the sky where the air and wind will help cleanse the wounds of the past.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 27

 

Eskel walked into the rather hallowed chamber that was the Emperors dressing rooms with a touch of hesitation.  Geralt saw the look of befuddlement on his friends face in the reflection of the mirror he was standing in front, and watched as Eskel tugged at the collar on his new outfit.  Geralt couldn’t deny his friend looked good in red and black, trimmed with gold but he clearly wasn’t used to formal dress, Geralt after two years at Emhyrs side was, unfortunately.

“As my fiancée you have a lot of leeway in how you approach people however I do expect you to be on your best behaviour.  The women at today’s Solar are the wives, mistresses and daughters of the most powerful and influential members of the senate, my council and the trade Corporations.” Emhyr was saying as Mererid fluffed about Geralt, Geralt resisted the urge to roll his eyes, last time he’d done that Emhyr had noticed, and had canceled the evenings dinner and dragged Geralt off to his sexual dungeon, not that he was allowed called it that. 

He caught Eskels look of amusement as he watched the proceedings, Emhyr had ordered Eskels attendance, his friend was early he realised and sighed, what’s the bet that he was going to be teased about having three servants dressing him.  His attention was caught though when one of the dressers walked up to Emhyr with a box, Emhyr paused in his instructions to him and opened the box, a half smile on his face.

“Just in time,” he murmured in satisfaction.

Oh boy, not that tone of voice, in the last few days that tone of satisfaction usually boded ill for Geralt, Geralt narrowed his eyes, and in the mirror watched as Emhyr gently reached in and pulled out a - crown?

Geralt frowned and looked at the thinner silver crown of twisted braid that had sixteen delicate points on it, Emhyr already had one so he didn’t know why he nee- Emhyrs eyes caught his own in the reflection and he stepped onto the platform behind Geralt.

Geralts mental oh boy turned into a oh hell quick smart as he realised that that crown was meant for him, “ohhh no,” he said as a surprised snirk came from behind him - Eskel, who had turned around and walked back out his shoulders shaking. 

“Oh yes Geralt,” murmured Emhyr as he gently placed the crown on Geralts brow, “its the Diadem of the Intended, I had it resized for you.”

He let loose a groan, “do I have too?” He couldn’t help the plaintive tone of complete and utter horror at the sight of the diadem on his head. 

He was a simple witcher, not a prince or lord.

“If you didn’t have to I wouldn’t have had it resized,” Emhyr pointed out as he stood behind Geralt, his hand now on Geralts waist as the two of them looked at the image in the mirror. 

Geralt was dressed in black blue and silver today, in a black and blue brocade doublet and hose with slippers as opposed to the longer tunics he’d been wearing recently.  Apparently the ladies solar was specific in its attire, men must wear doublets and hose.  He’d been worried he was going to have to wear a lace collar again, or a feather cap like Dandelion wore - the diadem was so much worse. He’d rather wear the collar and if he threatened to shove this one down a garderobe Emhyr would take it out on his ass. 

Emhyr stood behind Geralt dressed in his usual black and gold, the long tunic down to his calves, the crown on his head, and with his usual boots on it gave him an inch more in height on Geralt.

Geralt could see the look of immense satisfaction in Emhyrs eyes as he stared at the two of them in the mirror, well at least someone was happy he thought dolefully as he reminded himself that it was only for 11 months. His keen ears picked up a muffled choking laugh from the other room and he knew Eskel was laughing, Geralt was so getting him back.

Emhyr was silent and Geralt felt his fingers tighten and a firmness against his ass that told I’m Emhyr was feeling a little frisky, he thought about trying to turn Emhyrs frisky to aroused and wanting.  Then he could get out of going to this Solar.  

Why did he say he’d go? Oh thats right, to mess with Eskel.

Emhyr however just leaned in and tucked his nose under Geralts ear, taking in a deep breath as he did.  And then stepped back as he said, “Eskel, if you’re finished laughing at Geralts expense I want a word to the two of you.”

Geralt released from being dressed stepped down of the platform just as Eskel stepped back into the dressing room closely followed by Fainrael who Geralt had been told was escorting them to the event.  It was all so - bloody formal.

“As I was saying, I ask that you be polite, and don’t speak on matters of state or offer your opinion on matters you haven't heard off.  But do keep your ears open, Ciri says that she often finds the oddest information in these event. And look out for Elka, she’s attending today.  Eskel as Geralts attendant you’ll be shadowing him, some of the more savvy ladies will try to seperate the two of you to pick your brains, stay with him”

Geralt perked up at that news, he could put the little princess in front of them as a buffer, she was training for these sorts of things.  Underhanded of him to use a child as a shield but he hadn’t a clue what to do.

He looked at Eskel, who looked back at him, Eskel nodded his head, “Harpies,” was all he said.

Both Emhyr and Fainrael frowned and Geralt solemnly nodded his head again, they had discussed tactics in dealing with the Ladies and both had realised the tactics called for fighting harpies could be easily translated to this affair.

Harpies were tricksy devious creatures so one needed to keep their wits about them, these ladies sounded like the same, so Geralt and Eskel decided to treat the ladies liked they would a harpy pack.  

Stay close to each other - that was a given in a harpies territory.

Keep the target in sight while engaging and if threatened by another target distract it - talk politely, be attentive and acknowledge interloper.

Down target as quick as possible - wind down conversation.

Dispatch accordingly - finish conversation and leave with a bow.

They wouldn’t be armed with their swords and they weren’t allowed to use their signs, bombs and potions but they could use compliments, stories and ply the ladies with wine and food (lots of wine). So as long as they remembered that they were dealing with a harpy pack they would get through the afternoon just fine.

As he finished explaining their reasoning to Emhyr and Fainrael, a choked out laugh came from an unexpected quarter, they all turned to see that Mererid who looked his usual composed self, yet was red in the face and his eyes, were alight with mirth.

“I can’t argue with their logic can I Mererid?” murmured Emhyr his own eyes glittering with amusement and Mererid shook his head.

“Its surprisingly insightful sire, and it translates well across.”

“Makes me wonder how they would tackle the senate,” Fainrael observed.

“Who would have thought Witcher tactics could be utilised in the Golden Court Of Nilfgaard, it will be interesting to see if they work.  Well then, it appears you have this under control.  While Fainrael will be accompanying you, he’s not there to help you as he’ll be with the other escorts, you’ll be on your own in what you both have quite accurately surmised as a harpies nest.  But I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

“Yeah, we’re joining the Ladies who lunch group.” Geralt said sourly.

“Tellra and Balik almost wet themselves laughing,” grumbled Eskel.

“Why the hell did you tell them, especially Tellra?” Geralt asked appalled at the thought of that damnable Bear knowing.

Eskel sighed, “didn’t mean too I came out of my room looking like this and Balik asked, told him, but didn’t realise Tellra was in hearing distance. Oh by the way, Takara contacted me this morning, Lamberts awake and they’re going to talk, she said to expect them back by Friday.”

Geralt sighed in relief, when Takara had taken Lambert away the other day they were all worried, she had kept them updated via her link with Eskel but the stubborn witcher hadn’t woken up after passing out.

“Thats good news,” said Emhyr who knew the story, Geralt had told him. As much as Lambert rubbed him up the wrong way with his abrasive nature, he was still one of theirs and Geralt had been troubled about the conclusions he had drawn.

His conversation with Emhyr had helped him sort out the emotions that had welled up at the thought of what Lambert had possibly gone through.

“Well then, good luck to the two of you, while these affairs usually go for anywhere between three and four hours, its acceptable for you two to leave after two.”

Geralt immediately looked at Fainrael, ”we’re leaving after two hours, no exceptions.”

“Oh thank fuck for that,” muttered Eskel.

With that Emhyr looked at Fainrael and with a subtle move of his hand that Geralt noticed, had Fainrael bowing and bundling Eskel out the door, Mererid and the servants left as well leaving the two of them alone. 

“I won’t be myself,” Geralt said half joking but Emhyr smiled, Gods this was a bad idea he thought for not the first time, why did he think this was a good idea.

“I can mitigate any scandal you start... but do be aware that I’ll be forgiving the first time, depending on the severity, possibly the second time as well but after that I have every intention of letting you know my displeasure.”

“Yeah yeah, you’ll tie my ass up for a week and take the most creative approach with it.”

“I’m glad you understand beloved,” purred Emhyr, a certain gleam in his eyes, “I’m almost hoping you do create a spat of scandals.”

Geralt snorted, “If I know me, I’m going to be spending a decent amount of time tied to the bed posts in the coming months.”

Emhyr gave a husky chuckle, “I can’t wait, I’ve been looking forward to trying out your gift to me.”

“It wasn’t for you to torture me with.”

“But it has so many interesting applications, I’ve thought of several.” With that Emhyr leaned in and whispered in his ear one possible application that had Geralts breath hitching and his heart rate increasing.

“Oh,” He said intelligently.

With the final word whispered in his ear, in a tone that conveyed a promise to come, Emhyr gently bit Geralts earlobe, and palmed Geralts half hard cock, which went to all hard in a heartbeat.

“I love how responsive you are beloved, but unless you want to give the ladies a thrill you’re going to have to get yourself under control.” Emhyr murmured as he let go of Geralts ear and his cock, taking a step back, his eyes almost aglow with his own desire.

Geralt sighed in defeat, Emhyr did it to him every time, “you’re a bastard,” he groaned as he activated several mutations to slow his heart rate and calm his libido.

“I know.” 

With that Emhyr took his arm and led Geralt out through their rooms to the main door, it was open and Fainrael and Eskel stood waiting them. 

The two of them bowed at Emhyrs approach as did the guards and stepped behind Emhyr as he walked on with Geralt.

Geralt had gotten used to it all now, but he was counting down the days when he would be able to relax and not worry about Imperial Protocol.

Before long they had reached the ground floor of the Imperial Palace, and they split up, Emhyr up to the governance wing, and Geralt and his little Hanse to the Garden Pavillon,

Another of the four main gardens in the palace complex, it was smaller than the Imperial Gardens, built over an ornamental lake, and was a series of pavilions connected together.  Unlike the water garden which was all ponds and streams and fountains, the lake was peaceful, full of birds and fish, frogs and turtles. 

Geralt knew Takara had forbidden Haru from the Pavilion because the kit didn’t stay out of the water and the frog population had decreased for some odd reason that might have to do with the fact they apparently tasted like chicken.

As they came to the center pavilion, Geralt mentally girded his loins, Eskel did the same and Fainrael with a slight smile that could be called a smirk in certain light bowed to Geralt and went to join the other Escorts.  Geralt was hating the fact that people were bowing to him, thank all that was holy Eskel had taken one look at him and said, “not only am I not kissing your ass, I’m not bowing to it either.”  

At least there was someone who had his back in all this mess.

They both stepped into the pavilion and every eye zeroed in on them, Geralt gulped, as he came to the startling conclusion they were the prey and this was the ladies territory, he would rather fight a fiend he thought.

As Eskel took a half step close to him, he muttered under his breath, “show no fear.”

Eskel gave him an almost silent growl and in the same volume hissed, “just what the fuck have you gotten us into?”

Geralt concluded he had no idea, but whatever it was they were so out of their element.

 

————

 

Emhyr sat back in his chair, his main study was full with his and Ciri’s aids, but it didn’t stop him from laughing, an unheard of sound to nearly all within the room so it didn’t come as a surprise when everyone stopped to look at him.

He had a large crystal ball on his desk, one that he often used to watch the proceeding before a meeting, the visual today was from the eye that was on Fainraels neck. It currently showed Geralt and Eskel, their facial expressions usually so composed around nobles now hinted at panic or at least wide eyed unease.

He shouldn’t laugh but their confidence had been high and now they were wallowing, any man would be by now and the two witchers were fast becoming aware of how dangerous the territory they were in actually was.

Ciri approached his desk, “you’re scaring everyone,” she murmured to him and then she saw what had him so amused.

“You’re watching them? Oh this will be good.” She said as she stood next to him, bending over, one hand on his chair to watch Geralt introduce himself to Emhyrs cousin.  Tryanna var Enderley, a lady of the var Enderley house and a distant cousin to Emhyr on his mothers side was the one who hosted the Ladies Solar in the afternoon. It wasn’t as usually well attended as todays affair, it appeared word had gotten out that the Emperors intended was attending that afternoon.

“You didn’t have anything to do with the size of the Solar today Ciri?” Emhyr asked his daughter mildly.

“Who me?” She said innocently, too innocently.

“You really do like to give him a hard time.”

She paused, “I should stop but its so easy to tease him,” she murmured and they both watched as Tryanna started introducing the two of them to the Ladies present, all sixty of them.

“I can’t believe you told them that the Solar was part of Geralts duties.”

“Technically it is part of the Intendeds duties, however I will admit I was taking my revenge when I told Geralt it was part of his duties now.  I honestly didn’t expect him to do it, Geralt had the grand idea to go just so he could make Eskel go as well.”

Ciri laughed, “bet he’s regretting that.”

“What’s the bet that he’ll never go again?”

“Thats a suckers bet Papa, they’re witchers, unless there’s a contract that involves them going again I can guaranteed you they won’t ever do it again, they’re not idiots.”

Emhyr chuckled at his daughters amusement, “they’re tackling the solar as if they’re in a harpies nest.”

He looked at her profile, to see her close her eyes and her shoulders start to shake, “please tell me your joking.”

“I’m afraid not, they said that tactics used with harpies should work.”

Ciri lost it, she cracked up laughing, “oh those idiots, I love them to bits but they have no clue.”

Emhyr smiled at his daughter as she turned her head to look at him, her green eyes glowing with mirth, he couldn’t help the chuckle in his own voice as he said, “I’m curious to see if witcher tactics work when it comes to the ladies of the court.”

“If they had asked me I would have said not harpy tactics.”

“Oh, then how would you have advised them?”

“Told them to use tactics similar to when engaging a Endrega nest.  They’re highly territorial and conscious of their class, so workers, warriors and drones surrounding a queen.”

Emhyr blinked, “whose the queen?”

“That changes, at the moment is Lady Lia von Eplincort.”

“The wife of Margrave von Eplincort?”

“Hmmm, the drones are the ones who surround her just to be seen, the workers are the ones who buzz about trying to get in her good graces, and the warriors are the sycophants who attend the solar and cozzie up to her.  The queen is the one who can help your social life flourish or she can kill it with but a word.”

Emhyr just looked at his daughter, what an odd interpretation of the court ladies, “my my.”

She shrugged her shoulders, “I’m interested if they sink or swim, or if they decide retreat is the better part of valour and throw themselves off the pavilion.”

Emhyr laughed at the image, and as he watched Geralt being introduced to the ‘queen’ of the court he couldn’t help but wonder as well.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 28

 

Takara watched as Haru shot off over the valley floor, her eyes tracking him as he moved from her vantage point up high on a bluff overlooking the valley.  Morning was well and truely heading towards midday and the valley smelt of the autumn that had completely set in and of the snow that would start to fall soon.

She felt the igni sign that Lambert used to light the camp fire ripple through the ether and turned to look at him, he looked so tired she thought, even though he had slept for so long.

She was sitting on a log that she had brought down with her whip and was warming his hands in the flames, it wasn’t that cold but her wolf pup had always hated the cold.

“The boy’ll be alright?”

“Haru? Yes he’ll be fine.”

“There’s wolves about Takara and bears.”

“Haru can kill a wolf as easily as he can kill a human, but he will call for me if he needs me.”

They were silent and Takara waited, she would not force him to start, it would not help him.

“Where did you bury her?”

“I scattered her ashes across the stream, along with the other two sorceresses who had invaded my territory to find the library.”

He was silent again for a little while, “did she hurt?”

“Yes, she hurt, all three did.” She sighed as she remembered, she hadn’t been in the best of minds when she had found the three sorceresses in the depository, had watched them throw books aside and turn over equipment in their rush to find the book.  

The lack of care had angered her.  

So she had played with them, she had opened the library when a spell thrown by Fringella Viggo had hit and broken a sconce on the wall.

It had been like honey to a bear, and the three had descended into the library, she had let them see what had been collected, had listened as she watched from the staircase as they exclaimed over what they saw when looking over the balcony to the levels below.

Her voice had startled them, her appearance in her half-form had confused them.  And when she had introduced herself as the Guardian of the Library Phillipa Eilharts dismissal had cemented their future.  Not the Emperors order.

“Trust the Witcher’s to have something so fascinating hidden away, this and you are now property of the Lodge of Sorceresses.” 

Takara had stepped into the mezzanine and prowled towards them as this Eilhart had given her a calculated and clinical look through eyes of glowing crystals.  She had looked at the gem eyed sorceress, whose own folly and ambition had blinded her, and whose power blinded her still.

“You wish to lay claim to what is not yours? the Library is to become part of the Empire of Nilfgaard, it is not yours to take, many of your kind have tried, and they have all died. I cannot be tamed, I who have ruled an Empire and traveled worlds.”

Fringella had turned to Keira and said “power up Keira, it can’t take all of us.”

Takara had taken one look at the blonde haired woman and gave her a look so cold Keira Metz had taken a step back.

“Why did the pup die?”  Takara hissed a her.

“Pup? I have no idea what you’re talking about, I didn’t kill your pet.”

“Lambert of the Wolf, he travelled with you, yet now he lies fallow in some unmarked grave, why did he die?”

She had seen the look Keira Metz had given the Eilhart woman and then she looked back at her and spoke, Takara had listened knowing that she was trying to distract her from the two other women who had started their spells.  

Foolish women.

Keira had given her a tale of a vampire hunting a village, she had wanted to kill it, and Lambert had died heroically. It had sounded strange for Lambert was not one to help unless it benefited him but maybe his time with the sorceress had changed him, love and lust changed everyone held within is grip.

She would have queried further but Eilhart had attacked her with a containment spell, while the other threw a spell designed to hurt and compel.  And as the women congratulated each other, Takara had given them all a chilling smile and blown the spell apart.  She had called in her fire, her flame of blue light. And as they had come to the realisation and the fear that she was a power not to be messed with Takara had bared her fangs and lengthened her claws then had spoken the last words they had ever heard.  Other than each other’s screams and pleas for mercy.

“Phillipa Eilhart, by the order of the Emperor of Nilfgaard, for the torture of Yennefer of Vengerberg and the flouting of the agreements contracted between the members of the Lodge of Sorceresses and the Empire, you are hearby sentenced to death by whatever means I deem appropriate.  You and any who aid you.”

Their deaths hadn’t been quick, Takara had taken them apart with her claws and her whip, they had died terrified, and in pain.

“I was angry that they were here,” she said, answering the question in Lamberts eyes when he had heard her sigh.  “Angry that Phillipa Eilhart had tortured Yennefer, I felt responsible for it because I had let her take notes from a book here. I terrified them, and when I realised one was the woman you were traveling with I asked her why did you die.”

“What did she say?”

“You died a hero’s death protecting her, there was truth in her words so she believed in them. But I still killed her, painfully, all three of them died in agony and fear.”

“Is it cruel of me to say good?”

“What did she do?”

He didn’t wait this time, he just poked at the fire, and then spoke, “The vampire, it wasn’t hunting the villagers, it had a lover in one of the village girls, stupid wench, but it was only sipping off her.  Her choice, I didn’t care one way or the other, but Keira traced the vampire and told me we were going to kill it.” Lambert shook his head, and then started to break the stick he held into kindling, “didn’t take me all but two minutes to realise we were dealing with a higher vampire, told Keira I wasn’t going to have a bar of it, was walking away when she decided to go after it.  Fucking idiot I was, I turned back to help her, but when it hurt her, broke her arm, she looked at me and... and then opened up a portal, the bitch bailed on me, leaving me with a pissed off higher vampire. She left me Takara, gods I was such a fool, I thought she loved me, thought I fucking loved her too, but she just looked at me, didn’t even fucking apologise and abandoned me to it.” He stood up, and started pacing on the bluff, she had chosen it so he didn’t have room to run away.  But her cornered wolf didn’t like the confinement.

“The next two years? Fuck me, they were the most fucked up years of my life to date.  I was a blood slave Takara, do you know what thats fucking like? The vampire who beat me until I couldn’t fight anymore then tied me up and took me to its lair.  He’s old Takara, real fucking old and heads a small family. He had a grand time trying to break my will, he and the others that followed him. They fed off me and took great delight it making sure I enjoyed it.  They played me, like my mutations were nothing.  I couldn’t control my own body, it fucking betrayed me when I needed it the most.  But you knew didn’t you?”

“Yes, I knew.  The moment I saw you alive I knew, no one goes through what you have lived without it leaving a scar and it was written all over you.” She said as she rose to stand next to him on the bluff, she let her gaze zero in on her kit, he was downwind of the herd, moving through the underbrush silently.  She smiled, he was taking his time, patience in hunting.

Lambert snorted, “Yeah, got a few of them, they liked to make the bites hurt, and humiliating.  You know the most fucked up bit about it though Takara, they don’t even like the taste of witcher blood, but I was one of those things you trot out and say hey cop a taste of how foul this is.”

“The mutations are effective like that, but I’m sorry that they didn’t keep you safe.”

He wasn’t listening she thought as he continued, “The family moved about a bit, then they took us on a really long journey, over ocean and deserts.  There’s a really big gathering thats happening, and it only happens every two hundred years or so.  They’re numbers aren't large, there’s only about three hundred or so of them so they have these meets to mate, the females try and get pregnant and then go into seclusion, but they must attend.”

“So you escaped while this was happening.”

“I owe Geralt, never thought his friendship with a vampire would ever help me.  A vampire called Dettlaff bought me, and I didn’t cost him silver either, so there I was thinking great a new master, and he just up and took me to the closest human city.  Gave me a bag of gold and said, ‘I owe Geralt of Rivia, tell him that this doesn’t pay for what he went through but I hope it helps.’ Then he and the other vampire with him left me there.”

Takara was silent as she listened to him, she knew about Geralts friend Regis, but the vampire had died in Stygga, this Dettlaff was new. But for helping her kit he would receive her aid if he ever needed it.

“Blooded, raped, broken.  I’m a fucking mess aren’t I? I’m angry at those who only want to help, I just want to be me again but -“ he stopped, and looked at her his eyes holding a hollow pain.

“You can’t be Lambert, this will always be apart of you now, its our experiences which make us who we are.  But its up to you on how you want this to define you.

“I don’t want this to fucking rule me.”

“Then that is what we work on my kit, it will take time Lambert but there are potions that were created to aid witchers through what was called Path Illness.  A tiredness of the mind from all the death and pain that was seen, it results in nightmares, anger and dependency on drugs and alcohol, I believe that is what you have.  We start by talking about it, not bottling up the pain and anger until you explode like a grapeshot, and the best people for you to talk to is Emilé and Balik. Emilé understands the pain of rape more than you know and Balik, Balik was held captive for over a decade by mages experimenting on him, he wasn’t willing.”

“Emilés a bastard.”

Takara smiled at Lamberts groan, “Yes, always will be, but there is a reason why he was to me and the wolves. He and I have sorted that out, we have decided to start anew, but he knows what he’s talking about when he says you need to release the anger.”

He sighed and she held out her arms, he stepped into her embrace and placed his forehead on her shoulder, “I’ll try Takara.”

“You have always succeeded in what you set out to do Lambert, this will not rule you.  But I would suggest you take it easy for the next few months at least, and don’t be afraid to ask for help, let us know your having a bad day and we will help you or leave you alone if you need the quite.”

“Maybe I should take up weaving,” he muttered, she knew it was meant to be a joke but the idea had merit.

“Weaving or some other craft would be good, it helps you focus on another subject.  Why do you think many of the witchers liked carpentry, or blacksmithing and the gardens there were always maintained by several of the older Witchers.”

He was silent for a minute then pushed himself away from her, “Vesemir knitted,” he said to her.

“Yes, a young peasant lass taught him, he knitted because it made him relax.”

“I’ll think about it, think about what I could learn, it’ll be something new to do too.”

She smiled at him, “until then you can help me by sorting out the books that are in the depositary, we leave on Friday and I may as well make use of you until then.”

She laughed at his long drawn out groan, and didn’t believe a second of it, her Child of Sorrow and Learning had always valued knowledge, he was one of the brightest she had ever taught, with a thirst for knowledge only rivalled by his anger at his circumstances.

“You’re kits about to be bucked.” 

She looked over the valley to Haru and sighed, he had turned back into his true form, not the best idea for hunting a deer, and was hanging onto the back of a large male deer by his fangs.  But he surprised them when he shifted back to boy, and straddled the beast while it tried to throw him.  He drove his claws into both sides of its neck, severing the major artery and vein on either side.  The deer was downed in seconds as it bled out.

And Takara smiled, “thats my kit” she purred with pride, and across the valley her boy looked up to the bluff and waved to her, she waved back and watched as he strung the deer up in the trees by its own entrails to keep it away from predators and then started tracking another.

She had, after all, asked for two.

 

————

 

Emhyr stepped into the bed chamber with a small secretive smile, Mererid had directed him to the consorts chambers when he had asked after Geralt.  If he knew his witcher the man would be there tearing apart a practice dummy or deep into maintaining his equipment, all in an effort to try and forget the afternoon had even happened.

For all intents and purposes, the afternoon had gone well, his reports indicated that Geralt and Eskel had both handled themselves with grace and dignity, had stayed by each other’s side and left precisely two hours into the Solar.

Fainraels verbal report that afternoon had said, “they’re shell shocked, Geralt didn’t realise that no topic is considered sacred in a Ladies Solar, he didn’t know how to respond when he was asked if he needed any tips in keeping you interested in him.  And then when Lady Enanlira started describing the best way to perform oral sex both Geralt and Eskel nearly had kittens.”  Emhyr had tried not to laugh, he wasn’t successful as Fainrael continued his report. Fainrael stood to attention before his desk, Emhyr had the room cleared of all personnel and was thankful that Ciri had had a meeting to attend, he hadn’t wanted to see his daughters reaction to that bit of news.

“Enanlira is a tart, but by all accounts she does keep her husband and her lover very happy, and while Geralt and Eskel were trying to pick their jaws up off the floor she told them they would need to start pelvic floor exercises.”  Fainrael just continued his report, much to Emhyrs growing amusement.  The afternoons Solar had gone better than he had hoped.

“One of them asked her to elaborate didn’t they?” He had inquired, because one of them would have.

“Geralt, he said he had never heard of pelvic floor exercises, wanted to know which part of the body they strengthened.  He regretted asking.”

“I’m sure he did,” he said as mildly as he could.

“And just as Enanlira started to describe just why they needed to do pelvic floor exercises, Varelkar arrived, I don’t think Geralts ever been so happy to see the Princess before.  So when she arrived he all but glued her to his side.  She kept the conversation from devolving into the sexual side again because of her age, and it became more about Witchers and their fights after that.”

Emhyr nodded his head, “thank you Captain, I’m glad that you could escort them there today.”

Fainrael had given him a bow and the smile was all smirk, “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world your Imperial Majesty,” he said with absolute conviction.

“And their harpy tactics?” Emhyr was curious, especially after Ciri’s observation, he had sat back in his chair, tapping the arm rest as he did.

“Surprisingly enough sire, they were partially effective, but they could do better, and they retreated the very moment they could. A time honoured witcher tradition I’m told.”

Emhyr nodded his head, Geralt had once said that retreat was a witcher tradition, run and live another day, “You’re dismissed, are you meeting Eskel?” He inquired, he was certain they would but asked.

“Yes Sire, I’m going to have to do some consoling, I’m sure he’s had an education he isn’t too sure how to cope with.”

To Emhyr it had sounded like a grand idea, he had ended his day when the bells tolled four and went in search of his witcher.

And found Geralt sitting on the floor several swords in front of him along with an assortment of cloths, oils and whetstones.

He didn’t look up at Emhyrs entrance or approach, but he did say, “I thought ladies were supposed to be modest.”

Emhyr came up in front of him and watched as Geralt oiled the silver blade in his lap until the runes shone. “Depends on the ladies, the ladies of the north are modest to a fault or at least pretend to be, the southern ladies are far more - liberal than their northern counterparts and possibly more honest.”

Geralt gave a snort at that accurate assessment, and then looked up at Emhyr, his amber eyes had a glazed look about them that Emhyr had only ever seen a few times.  Each time when Geralt had had too much to process in one hit, the ladies of the court had broken his lovers mind he thought.

Geralts next statement made him grasp for his vaunted control, “I have never in my long life been told I’m giving oral sex incorrectly. I mean sure, it had been awhile before you but I’m damn certain you had no complaints.”

Emhyr’s control was absolute and he didn’t laugh at Geralts rather plaintive tone, but Geralt he decided needed reassuring, “considering you can blow my mind quicker than I can get myself under control sometimes I’d say theres most certainly no complaints.”

His witcher picked up the sheath and slid the sword home, done with its care.

“Thats what I thought, and now I find myself in the rather astonishing predicament of having to ask Takara if she has a book about pelvic flor exercises. I was just informed that over time everything gets loose so to make sure I use those exercises to the best effect.”

Emhyr couldn’t hold back the urk that came out of him as he tried not to think about Takara’s reaction, “theres no book here in Nilfgaard that could help?”

“I wasn’t asking, I was a fool to ask what the fuck pelvic floor exercises were but I did and now Eskel and I have to worry about muscles loosening up down there. Its not feeling loose down there is it?”

It took Emhyr a few seconds to realise that Geralt had asked him the question and he was serious,  it took him even longer to gather the threads of his rapidly fraying control and manage to say, “I haven’t noticed anything loose.”

“Good because apparently its how I keep you interested.”

Emhyr couldn’t help it, the laugh bubbled up, he choked it off but Geralt had heard, he gave Emhyr a deadpan expression, “its not funny.”

“Definitely not.”

“You’re laughing at me.”

“No.”

“I can smell a lie Emhyr,”

Emhyr took a deep breath intending to lie again when he got himself under control but Geralt moved too fast for him to see, let alone react too and he was very suddenly on the ground with his witcher looming over him.

He lost it, he laughed, it was by far the longest and the most intense laugh of his life and as a few tears leaked from the corners of his eyes he watched the look of consternation flow across Geralts face.  It soon morphed to one of embarrassment coupled with wonder and he smiled at Emhyr awkwardly.

“I’m overthinking things aren't I?”

Emhyr nodded his head, “You don’t have to worry about getting loose ‘down there’” he managed to gasp out between laughter, “or if you’re preforming oral sex correctly.” And laughed at Geralts shake of his head.

He reached up and brushed a lock of silver fire from Geralts brow looking into those amber eyes that were perfect, “its moments like these Geralt that make me love you even more, and I will do all that I can to ensure that this love grows and thrives.”

Geralt gave him a self conscious smile, “so you don’t think I need to worry about pelvic floor exercises?”

The laughter, which he had only now just got under control bubbled up again, “Ask Takara if you’re worried, but do me a favour... I want to hear her answer. Ohh Geralt, kiss me you foolish witcher.”

Geralt did just that, he leaned in, and kissed Emhyr, a kiss that left Emhyrs senses reeling and every thought and plan he had went out the window. Tonight wasn’t going to be planned he decided, tonight he wanted Geralt to take him.

He murmured words to that effect in Geralts ear and his lover shuddered in his arms, encasing Emhyr in his own as he slid a thigh between Emhyrs legs and kissed him again.

And again.

It was sweet and it was loving, it was everything Geralt was and so much more.  There was passion in each caress, love in every gentle look.

The words, the sighs, all told a story that had captivated Emhyr so long ago.  He was so glad he had the courage to see if there was more between them in Novigrad.  And as the pleasure grew and grew and grew to eclipse in a glorious ecstasy that he felt straight to the core of him, he thanked the sun and everything he had ever done for this one thing in his life.

Because it was perfect. 

Chapter Text

Chapter 29

 

Geralt rode Roach down the main tree lined avenue that made up the high road leading towards the palace, they said that all roads in Nilfgaard led to the Palace of the Sun.  It wasn’t wrong, all roads led to this particular road, that went from the main gate to the palace, as such it was a well tended and well travelled thoroughfare.  He was accompanied by several members of the Impera Brigade which Emhyr had demanded that morning much to Geralts loud voiced vociferation when he had been told.  But Emhyr had gone all imperial on him and as such Geralt had gone all outraged witcher, the argument that had followed had been the result of two stubborn men locking horns over the matter.

It had taken Ciri storming into their bed chamber and yelling at the two of them to knock some sense into their heads.  Geralt knew he wasn’t taking the sudden change in his life well and as his foster daughter had said, “if you can’t accept the protocols in place for the protection of the Imperial family then you had better pack your stuff and move out.  For suns sake Da, as the Intended you are a member of the Imperial Family, you have no idea of the dangers that are in place to take Papa out, harming you would go a long way to harming him.”  

And as Emhyr had started to back his daughter up, Ciri up and turned around to lecture him, “and you, you drop that fiancée bombshell on Geralt out of the blue and expect him to go along with it, smile in place. He’s been doing a great job in the last week or so but cut him some slack, he’s finding this hard and he doesn’t want to worry you however he’s reached his limit.  He’s not going out of the palace on offical duties today, he doesn’t need a full honour guard to attend whatever meeting Takara called.”

The two stubborn men had eyed each other off and as Ciri had swept out of their bedroom Emhyr had just sighed and said, “she’s right.”

“Yeah, sorry.” Geralt muttered, still feeling like the world was against him as he stood there arms crossed protectively against his chest. Emhyr who had been going through his morning planner before dressing at the start of the argument just tossed the planner on the bed and walked towards him.   He took hold of Geralts hands and pulled his arms apart, holding them before him and catching Geralts eyes.  The brown eyes were warming not the cold that had been there moments before, and Geralt felt himself relax in those eyes.

“No, I’m the one whose sorry, I’ve been so busy that I’ve hardly taken the time to ask if you’re okay with all this.”

“I wouldn’t have let you know if it was bothering me anyway,” Geralt murmured depreciatingly, Emhyr reached up and cupped Geralts cheek in his palm, he moved to stand right in front of Geralt and put his forehead to Geralts own.  Geralt sighed at the touch and the intimacy of the act, reaching out with his free hand to place it above Emhyrs heart, feeling the beat and noting it was faster than it should be.

“How about we make a deal, if its too much you tell me and we talk it through.  I won’t make demands without telling you why and negotiating if I can,” Emhyr said softly.

“That sounds fair, and I’ll try and not let everything get to me and if it does I’ll tell you.”

The lovemaking that had followed had made Emhyr very late for his morning meeting with his Naval Admirals.  Not that Geralt had cared, he wasn’t the one that was late and he got to see his usually unflappable lover dashing about like a whirlwind to get ready.

They had agreed to four members of the Brigade instead of the usual twelve but Geralt knew that the avenue was lined with more guards than was necessary and he was sure that there were some plain clothed guardsmen following him. 

He let it slide knowing that Emhyr was true to form but at least the visible part of Geralts entourage was small.

They arrived at the 1st division and Geralt went directly into the main building, it was bustling about with all manner of military officials and training officers, and as they all stopped to bow to him he wanted to scream to the gods.  He hated the damn bowing.

A large shadow on the wall shifted and detached itself from the column it was leaning on and Geralt paused in surprise, the aid that had come to direct him to the meeting room stoped when Geralt had.

Letho of Gulet moved with fluid grace and deadly poise as he all but prowled towards Geralt, the large heavyset viper held out a hand to Geralt who took it, “Didn’t think you’d come here of all places.”

“Nearly didn’t come but yer lady said I’d be safe, said if I wanted a say in the witchers future I needed to be here, helps that everyone thinks I’m dead.”

“How’s Zerrikannia?”

“Hot, sandy... upside down.  Like I said, women rule the roost there and they don’t appreciate a mans opinion.” Geralt had heard the rumours, and hummed a response, it seemed all so strange for a society to be ruled by women, the two of them went to follow the aid. 

“So you found your lass, and are now the Emperors - lover.”

Geralt didn’t flinch at the censure in the drawled voice, he knew that Emhyr had a past, he’d been on the receiving end of Emhyrs plans before and caught up in the web of intrigue that had followed.

Letho, he knew was being polite, he could have said as plainly as Lambert had done that he was fucking the enemy but he was trying, Geralt was thankful for that at least.

“Yes, he saved my life and because Ciri and he are father and daughter we have a connection, it all evolved from there.”

“Be careful wolf, I don’t trust him, he’ll stab you in the back quicker than you can blink.”

Geralt nodded his head, ignoring the gasp from the aid, “I don’t blame you because of the past but he’s trying to stabilise the damaged done by the conjunction a few years ago.  Thats why the last of us have gathered here.”

“An offer too good to refuse was it? our tactics taught to outsiders, he got what he wanted.” He heard the derision in Lethos voice, the viper had cause, Emhyr had promised the reopening of their school and had reneged on it. Geralt hadn’t  asked why and he wasn’t going too, it had been done when Emhyr was solely focused on winning at all cost, he had wanted the north and he had gotten it.  

“We discussed the reopening of the schools, but the truth was we needed people on the ground now, not in 10 years time, Pietrev is here as are Balik and Emilé, they’re the ones, along with Eskel that have really put the training in place.’

“Emilés a prick on toes, Baliks alright.  Hadn’t heard that Pietrev was alive though.”

The aid showed them to a large well appointed room, judging from the quality of the furnishings it was used for important meetings as the padded chairs and height quality of the wood shone with a shine that spoke gold.  The large round table could comfortably host the twenty chairs surrounding it and the sideboard had been set up with refreshments.  The others were there, along with three more that Geralt had never met, as Letho went up to Pietrev Geralts eyes looked over at Lambert, the younger of the Witchers looked - better, a little more relaxed and rested. Geralt felt the tension he had been carrying over the last few days about Lambert ease, he had been worried for him.

Balik stirred from his corner and the hulking giant of a griffin called them all, “we’re all here? let’s get started.”

“Do you know what this is about Balik?” asked Emilé as the rest of the them, all seventeen, came and took chairs around the large table, the others murmured their own assent to Emilés question as they sat down. It seemed to be subconscious but they all sat with the schools they were from, the griffins, the bears, the manticores, followed by the wolves and then the two vipers.  The only school not represented was the cat, Geralt had a feeling he had killed the last of them in the village of Honorton.

“No clue, just the message that Takara gave everyone a month ago, be here by this date if you want any say in the future of the caste.”

“Hnnn, your guardian is a bit cryptic in her orders,” Drawled Letho, he sat back in the chair which creaked alarmingly and crossed his arms.

“Of course I am Letho of Gulet.”

Most who had been seated half stood as Takara stepped softly into the room, Haru at her heels, the young boy shyly peaking out from around her.

“Thank you all for coming,” she said as she came to the table, she took a chair next to Balik and sat down, on her left seperated by a chair was Pietrev.  The Viper shied away from her a bit as he realised she was sitting almost next to him. Takara just graced them all with a smile, Geralt couldn’t help but notice the tired look in her eyes, a look a sorrow and grief that he didn’t understand.

But then she spoke as Haru climbed into her lap.

“So few witchers these days.”

“Thats what happens when the schools no longer train boys to be monster slayers,” growled one of the new comers.

“There are more of us out there,” said Hayden with a shrug.

“No, you are all that remain.”

There was silence at her statement and they shifted uncomfortably as they words dropped like a stone.

 Lambert said what they were all thinking, “fuck, fuck this,” then he stood up crossed over to the sideboard, grabbing a bottle of wine and popped the cork, his actions spurred Gaven and Taric into joining him and the three of them soon had every bottle and goblet they could find, and it was a hefty amount.  Within minutes the entire table was plied with some of the best wine in the continent and as Geralt read the label of a wine from the Tou’lec region he knew it was from Emhyrs own cellar.

Takara didn’t speak but let them go, watching them as the all came to grips with the news, Geralt was thankful for it, he knew their numbers were low, but to have it confirmed shocked him.

“You’re sure Takara?” Asked Balik.

“I have spent the last few years traveling the length and breadth of this continent and the Isles of Skellige.  You are the last.”

“You could’ov missed some,” said Letho as he poured half a bottle of wine into his goblet.

“No, you all bear a mutation that is derived from me, it makes you kith and kin, I can sense a living witcher within a hundred miles of me, its how I tracked you down. Gentleman I will not lie, you are the last the Witcher caste and I called you all here to keep a promise.”

They either finished their goblets, the wine drunk fairly quickly, or they had paused and looked at her, but the entire table was focused on the Wolves Guardian on her words.

“Long ago, when the witcher caste was young and I had come to Kaer Morhen the head witcher Orran and I talked about the future, he had rightly concluded that all things come to an end and that in time the witchers would no longer be needed, or would fade into obscurity.  He worried at the ones left in the end and of the knowledge that could be misused.  I have kept that knowledge, I have killed to keep it safe, I have tried to steer the path of the Witcher’s in their twilight to one where your skills and knowledge would be recognised and valued in a world that was once hostile to you.  I saw a chance for a better path for you all and I took it.  Those who have lived here for the last eighteen months understand what I mean.  Here the south recognises the value that you have. And is using you to further their goal which is the witchers goal.  Protect humanity from the monsters of the dark.”

She was silent for a minute as they listened to her, and understood her words.  

“So this is the end?” Said Balik with a sigh, “never thought I’d live to see it.”

Blue flame ignited around the center of the table, Lambert cursed and dove for the bottles of wine, Eskel on his heels as the others scrambled to get the wine away from the blue lights.

“Thank you,” Takara said, but the light grew and when it dispersed there was a small mountain of books, journals, mutagen diagrams and papers sitting in the center of the table.

Lambert took one look at it, and then turned to hurl his goblet against the wall.

“Fuck,” was all he said, Geralt knew what he meant, and Takara confirmed it.

 “What you are looking at gentlemen is the only accumulated knowledge of the mages and witchers on the creation of a witcher.  My task, my promise and the reason I called you here today is this.  You will decide if this knowledge will be used again or destroyed.  That is what I promised Orran.  The Witcher’s either end with you, or Emhyr var Emreis will see the schools reopen but as an entity under Nilfgaards purview.”

Dead silence sat round the table, then Lambert said, “I’ll make it fucking easy,” he flicked his fingers at the pile an igni sign flaring to life, Letho leapt to his feet, his own sign flashing a quen to protect the pile of books.

“Don’t even think it wolf, this ‘ere restarts the school of the viper.”

“It ends snake, the witchers don’t need to be restarted, no boys should ever have to be fucking ripped from their families to be trained to die.”

With that the entire table exploded as most the witchers surrounding it devolved into a heated debate.

Geralt sat there listening to it, as did Balik and Emilé, the bear shaking his head at the vehement tone that the table had come too, Balik stood up with a sigh, his golden hand flashed as he raised it and making a fist he drove it into the table.  The cracking and splintering of the wood got everyone attention and they all stared at the point in the table where his prosthetic hand had all but disappeared.

“Huh, didn’t mean to do that,” Balik grumbled and pulled his hand out of the hole he’d made in the wood, stretching and flexing the skeleton like hand as he did, but then he levelled his own amber eyes at them all.

“You all got very valid views about this so we discuss it, we don’t argue it and reach for knives Anders.”

One of the newcomers had the grace too look a little apologetic, “sorry.” He muttered.

“We are not a pack of animals to fight over a carcass, we will talk about the whys and why nots,” Emilé said from his seat, “so sit down all of you and we will start with the why.”

The table talked, they spoke about the why, and it all had to do with monster slaying, Letho tried the tradition route as well, the necessity of their caste in fighting creatures so much faster and stronger than a normal human man.  There was some major assent as well, and Geralt had a feeling that there were a lot who wanted the schools restarted, he spoke about some of the creatures he had fought in recent years, the mage crafted monstrosities in Stygga and got a death glare from Lambert for his troubles.  

As the conversation winded down, Emilé asked for the why not, and Lambert launched into the reasons, it surprised all who didn’t know him on a deeper level just how articulate and knowledgeable he was on the subject.  He brought up the death toll of the training and of the trials, how the Nilfgaardians were already combating creatures and winning against that a generation or two ago they would have died fighting.  He spoke about the populace and their reactions to witchers, from their fear and hatred, and how it all tied in to the young boys being taken from their families.  In the end his argument made, he sat back down.

“So a few die, but its for the greater good,” growled Letho, “we bury them and move on.”

“What... we rebuild the school on the bones of the innocent once more?” Said Varen,”the ones we never name because no one remembers them.”

Takara who had been had been silent since she had told them why she had called them stroked Harus hair and hen softly spoke, “Pieter, Rabert, Jansen.” They looked at her in confusion as name after name tumbled form her lips, after a few minutes Geralt got it, she was reciting the names of the children who died. She looked up then her hand still cupping Harus cheek, “I can name every boy who died in every school, so many many names.  I remember them when no other will.”

they were all silent as the weight of the fourty or so names that she had spoken became apparent,  and she had a lot more she could utter thought Geralt as he swallowed reflexively, 

“Take the vote Balik,” she said wearily.

Balik nodded his head, “I think we sometimes we forget, we were the very lucky few to survive what we went through.  We vote, yes for the schools to be reopened under Nilfgaardian control and remember that distinction, no longer will we be neutral.  No for the knowledge to be destroyed.  Those who want to abstain may, but your decision is final.”

Balik looked at them al, “I’ll start, and my vote is no,” he said and then one by one they went round the table, out of the five griffins left three voted no while two voted yes. 

Then Emilé gave a bitter smile, “my vote is no,” the other Bears looked at him and followed with their own votes, one abstinence, two yes’s and another no.

Geralt made a tally in his head, the No vote was sitting ahead, the manticores were next but the last two of their school looked at each other, Kahlid spoke softly the one sitting with him, one of the new comers, “I’m sorry Ruben but I vote yes.” Said the enigmatic Haaklandian.

“There is no need to apologise old friend for your decision, I myself now knowing I can change the course of it all find that I can’t decide, I’ll abstain.”

Tied, Geralt thought with a grimace, the wolves were next, Lambert was a given.

“No, forever and fucking forever, a no from me.”

Eskel was silent and then he sighed, “yes.”

“What! Are you fucking kidding me.”

“Lambert-” Geralt started, but Lambert was not going to hear him, he was incensed at what he must have thought of as a betrayal.

“No, no you know what was done to us, you know what we all -“

“Of course I fucking do, I was there Lambert, but I am still voting yes.” Growled Eskel at him, he crossed his arms over his chest as he sat back in his chair, his scowl made even worse by the scars across his face.

Lambert looked as ready to kill as Geralt had ever seen him, and Lambert looked at Geralt, “I supposed your with him on this, you two always are,” he said bitterly.

“Actually, I vote no.” Lambert blinked at him and Geralt saw his shoulders slump as the younger wolf relaxed a little at his words.

“Doesn’t matter though does it, we vipers vote yes, which means the schools reopen,” Letho said his drawl victorious and his slight smile just as vicious, but Takara looked to her left at Pietrev, Geralt saw the look on Pietrevs face at Letho’s words and Geralt knew.

Pietrev disagreed with Letho.

“Wrong Letho, I don’t want the schools to reopen,” The other viper said softly.

Letho looked at his brother and growled, “careful there Pietrev, you betray all that came before us with that decision.”

“He’s made his fucking vote snake,” snapped Lambert, “let him be.”

“Thank you wolf, but I can stand for myself,” Pietrev did stand at that, looking at Letho, “you may have loved the school of the Viper, you were set to be one of the inner circle, possibly even the head witcher in time, you were a golden child rising from the ranks. Not me Letho, I barely survived training, I barely survived the Trial of the Grasses and the mutations, and I was never expected to come back after the first year.  But I did, I fucking made it.  I made it because I worked short contracts with little pay and I then used that coin to pay trainers to teach me to fight better.  The vipers threw me out when I survived the Trials but it was my own efforts that kept me alive. If I had known I could go to Kaer Morhen for more training I would have but no one tells you that.  I found that out only a few years ago, after being on the Path for eighty years. I vote no, not because I loathed what the schools were but because we are the end of an Era.  Magic and Soldiers are the future, not us and not our ways.”

Blue fire winked into existence above the pile of books and journals, “so be it,” murmured Takara and as it touched one and the book burned.  As one the Witcher’s looked on, not a sound filled the room as the knowledge accumulated over centuries at the cost of so much death and pain burned to ash.  It was hard to watch thought Geralt, he saw the future of their caste go up in flames and he wondered if he had made the right choice.  He knew he wasn’t the only one who wondered it either.

It was as Takara had said, ‘all things come to an end’.

When the last page had disintegrated Letho of Gulet pushed back his chair and walked out of the room, Balik stood and followed, the others remained and Carnin of the Griffin gave a long loud sigh then picked up the bottle closest to him, he didn’t bother with his goblet, just took a deep drink from the bottle itself.

Geralt couldn’t fault his logic, “thats a good plan,” he said to no one in particular.

“I agree with the wolf, lets go back to our quarters, there drink aplenty and I think we could all do with a bottle or three of white gull each,” said Varen as he stood, clapping Carnin on his back, “you three? Anders, Ruben and Zdislav wasn’t it?” As the three newcomers nodded their heads, Varen just grinned at then, “you’re more than welcome to join us, we are after all the last.”

The three of them smiled back at the invite and as one they all stood, Takara however didn’t, Geralt paused as the others filed out of the room, snagging the platters of food and drink as they did.

Waste not want not and all.

“Takara?” He asked, “are you alright?”

She turned bleak eyes to his and Haru patted her cheek the child obviously knowing that Takara was upset, “seven hundred years Geralt, eleven hundred and twelve witchers and now it has ended. My kind do not do well with change and this is a change that I find hard to accept.”

He didn’t know what to say so he said the obvious, “We’re still here.”

“Oh that I know and I am thankful for. I will be alright my kit, go ... take comfort in the company of today, I will go hunt.  That always makes me feel better.”

Geralt gave her a smile, and joked, “No griffins, you’ll have to pick feathers out of your teeth.”

She laughed, but to Geralt it sounded strained, “feathers are a pain.”

She stood up, and let Haru to the floor, the boy simply took his mothers hand in his own and Takara smiled down at him, tucking a lock of his long black hair over his forehead. 

“I am so thankful that you are in my life my child,” she said to him and Haru gave her smile of complete adoration.

“I am here Hahaue, I won’t leave you either.”

Geralt was thankful for the boys words and for what he represented, Haru was Takara’s future, not the Witcher’s, not any more.  He didn’t say it aloud though, he would let her come to the realisation on her own.  She would accepted better if she did.

 

———

 

It was late when Geralt walked into the Imperial wing, if he could drag his feet in exhaustion he would have, but it wasn’t a physical exhaustion, it was an emotional one.  The afternoon had been full of wine and drink, gwent and dice poker.  There had been arguments of a fiery nature and ones of a philosophical discussion and there had been practice bouts that had involved a lot of broken wooden practice swords.

Letho and Balik had returned several hours after they had left, nothing had been said but Letho while still upset wasn’t as angry as he had been when he had left.  He and Pietrev had spoken and then played Gwent, Letho caning Pietrevs ass because the other viper had a really shitty deck. 

Lambert had had a go a Eskel but Eskel had given as good as he had gotten and Emilé was the one that broke the two up, he had merely pulled Lambert aside and tossed a wooden sword at him, “come on pup, lets go.”  The fight had been good, the banter between the two sharp and at times nasty but there had been an undercurrent of humour through it.  

The seventeen Witcher’s left had drunk and ate, some had gotten blind wasted, some hadn't and Geralt, conscious of what happened the last time he had drunk hadn’t.  And had been teased by the lot of them for it.

It was all in good fun, and they had needed it, Takara had tossed them into an emotional maelstrom with her announcement and their decision.

He walked into the bed chamber to find Emhyr sitting on the lounge before the fireplace, he was dressed in his robe and had a book on his lap, a glass of wine in his hand and at the sight of him Geralt felt the emotional tug of the day pull at him.

Emhyr looked up, a look of disgruntlement on his face, “Who put the rather large hole in the round table?”

“Ahhh, no comment?” Geralt said, closing rank and protecting Balik, Emhyr narrowed his eyes at him, and Geralt gave him a game smile.

“The damage isn’t slight Geralt, the table has to be replaced.”

Geralt had a sneaky idea, it involved a certain pouch of disks that he had been given with the instructions to buy whatever he liked with,  “alright I’ll arrange it, the Imperial carpenter right.”

Emhyr just looked at him and pursed his lips, “yes, and who will pay for it?”

“the one who damaged it,” he had no intention of asking Balik for the coin, and if Emhyr growled about the fact that Geralt had paid for it with one of those disks he’d just point to the dungeon and say do your worst.  A few hours at Emhyrs talented hands would be worth it.

“Then I’ll leave it in your hands.” Said Emhyr as he turned back to his book and Geralt knew that he wasn’t be dismissed per say, but he was being given the time to get ready for bed.

He didn’t hesitate shifting into the dressing room and said hello to Jivarri, who didn’t approach him to help him change, the servants knew him by now. 

He got out of his leathers and threw on the silk robe that Emhyrs servants had dug up from somewhere and stepped into the bed chamber, Emhyr was still reading and Geralt paused behind him, leaning down he murmured, “I’m going to have a bath, care to join me?”

He sunk enough sexual heat into that question that it would have scorched the book if it had actual flame, Emhyr got it though.  

He paused in turning his page and then turned his head to look at Geralt, “and what do you plan to do in that bath?” He murmured back, his voice a dark purr of desire.

“Oh you know, this and that... I was hoping you would help me with this and that though.”

“Hmmm, how can I resist a temptation such as you.”  Emhyr closed the book with a resounding snap that had everything in Geralts stomach tightening.  He wanted this so bad.

He stepped back towards the door to the bath chamber watching Emhyr as he stood up, his body loose and graceful, a feline elegance to his movements that spoke of carnal delights and sensual pleasures.

Geralt just gave him a smile, his own promise in his eyes, “if I say take me anyway you want me, what will you do?”

Emhyr paused and Geralt watched as the his eyes already aglow with desire flared even hotter, Emhyr however didn’t take the bait, “where is this coming from beloved?” He asked stopping his prowl.

Damn it all, thought Geralt with a groan, “can’t I just ask?”

“You never ask me to take you anyway I want, you always let me lead but never ask.”

“Well I’m asking now.”

“And I am asking why? What happened today?”

Geralt just wanted to be fucked into oblivion and it seemed an ill thought question had raised Emhyrs suspicions.

“Takara made us decide what to do with the Witchers, let them die out or restart the schools.  Our choice was that simple, if we decided to die out she would destroy the knowledge that is necessary to create a witcher.”

Emhyr was silent, as was Geralt, he found that he didn’t want to disappoint his lover but Emhyr must have seen it in his eyes, he gave Geralt a sad smile and finished what Geralt couldn’t say, “the Witcher’s will be no more.” It wasn’t a question, it was a statement of fact.

Geralt felt his shoulders slump, and closed his eyes, “yeah, and I voted for it. We’ll be no more, just a foot note in history.”

“And such a tale it will be,” murmured Emhyr as he walked over to Geralt and embraced him, “it wasn’t an easy decision beloved and I am proud of you for making the hardest one.”

“I thought you wanted the schools reopened?” Geralt whispered, knowing that Emhyr would hear him.

“No, I said if need be, but the decision needed to be made by the ones who would carry the burden, the only demand I made was that if the schools were to be funded by the Empire than they would be answerable to Nilfgaard.”

“Yeah well, theres only seventeen of us left now.  And with each death that number grows smaller.”

“What do you need beloved?”

“I need to forget Emhyr, even if its only for a little while.”

Emhyr pulled back and looked in Geralts eyes, whatever he saw in them made his own flare, he reached up and twined his hand in Geralts hair, pulling at it.  

Controlling him.

Geralt felt everything clench and tighten, he moaned, gods he thought, he was so fucked.

Emhyr just watched Geralt, and Geralt saw the smiled of satisfaction cross Emhyrs lips, “We’ll start in the bath beloved, and then we’ll move to the swing.  You can let go and let me take you as far away from here as possible.”

That’s what he wanted, and he trusted Emhyr implicitly to take him there, he nodded his head, or tried too, Emhyrs grip was tight.

Emhyr let go and with an arm on his back directed Geralts position as he escorted Geralt into the bath chamber, the next few hours would be enough for Geralt to forget the day had happened.

Emhyr had a way that made him forget the world but for the two of them, and at the moment that was all Geralt needed.

He would deal with the consequences of today in the morning, but right now, now he needed Emhyr... and Emhyr would give him everything of himself that mattered, his love, his friendship and at times like this, he would take control and give Geralt what he most needed, and that was to let it all go.

Gods, thought Geralt, as Emhyr came over him, his lips taking Geralts in a kiss so hot that it scorched every nerve ending he had, he was so fucked, and he was loving every second of it, as he loved Emhyr and all that he was to him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 30

 

It was late morning two days after Geralt had returned from his meeting with the witchers when Emhyr, who was at his desk and in the middle of writing up his orders in response to a skirmish with Redanian loyalist was approached by Adventis.  His secretary hovered at his elbow, obviously wanting his attention, he finished what he was writing then looked up.

“Yes Adventis.”

“My apologies sire, Lady Ayakashi has requested a moment of your time.”

Takara never requested his time while he was in the Governance wing unless she absolutely needed to speak to him on an important matter.

The orders could wait, it was actually on the lines of exterminate any resistance with extreme prejudice, he didn’t need a flare up of any type of rebellion right now so he would have it stamped out immediately.

“Let her approach.” He went back to writing while he waited for Adventis to escort the two to him, when they arrived he looked up at them and paused in the act of resting his quill in its stand.

Takara was dressed in her traveling leathers, young Haru was dressed the same and clearly wasn’t used to it because he kept tugging at the collar of the outfit.

“You’re leaving to travel?”

Haru whined, his eyes sad, but Takara placed her hand on her kits head ruffling his hair, “Yes we are, I am to travel to Ofir and meet Nihara in Ashkenab*, from there I will aid her in seeing what the Za’aali are fleeing from.”

He knew so little about the City of his Wind and Dunes, the ancient city of Ashkenab, said to be the oldest of human cities in the world, built from sandstone and cut into the mountains itself, what he had read had made him wonder at it all.

“So you are aiding her?”

“Yes” she said with an amused smile, “your spies didn’t tell you?”

Emhyr raised an eyebrow at her and said unrepentantly, “my spies can’t read lips in the Ofirie Tongue, but you knew that.”

“That I did”

“how long do you think you’ll be away?”

“Not that long, possibly a month or so, but I would like to talk to you about the Library.”

He flicked his eyes around the room and then looked at Adventis, “clear the room.”

Adventis bowed and within minutes there room was clear but for them, Emhyr stood up from his desk when the last person left and walked around it, “is there a problem I need to address now, Master Hadrian’s reports come in monthly and they haven’t indicated anything of alarm.”  He smiled down at Haru as the boy almost bounced to see him and escorted Takara to a small seating area that he often used for conversations like this.

“No, theres no need for alarm I merely have a proposition for you.”

“Oh, now you have me intrigued.”

“Well then, I will tell you now so that you may think it over before I come back.”

“Please do,” he indicated a seat for her and she sat down 

Haru just looked between them and then said, “may I sit with Emhyr?”

“Of course you may,” He said and Haru simply smiled and then came to sit beside him on the long chaise, Emhyr knew that the bond the boy had with him was the reason she was here in the Palace, had stayed so long... “the bond won’t cause any issue for Haru will it?”

“No, the distance will do it good, he will miss you but it won’t hurt him.

“I still don’t understand it.”

Takara had said that Haru had bonded with Emhyr when Emhyr had shown him love, he hadn’t really taken much in over it thinking that the bond was just a word to explain why Haru liked him but it had come apparent over the last few weeks that it was so much more than that. Haru had a physical need to be around him, Emhyr hadn’t appreciated it at first, but he did now.

Takara sighed, “I haven't explained kitsune bonds to you have I. I said to you that he bonded to you, you were the first adult to show him any love and affection and he was starved for it.  We kitsune are pack creatures and clan is one of the most important aspects of who we are.  Clan is family, blood, loyalty and it is honour.

“The clan head is the most powerful member of the clan, must be the most powerful because the clans strength comes from the top.  Even when someone is born into the clan, they are blood but not clan, they must be taken in.  That never happened with Haru, the clan head didn’t start the process of bringing him into the clan, it is a merging of our Aura’s, our Aura is centre of our power. The core of us.  Haru maybe powerless in terms of magic but he has an aura and that ura subconsciously reached out and twined thorough you. But its not a true clan bond, it was born of a desperate need to be wanted, when I took Haru into my clan the bonds that had formed with you were strong, they are weakening now.  Soon they will disperse and all that will remain is the friendship and love he has for you but not the need to be with you.”

Emhyr thought about it, he hadn’t realised that clan bonds were so important to Takara, it made sense though for what she had said over their many games of shoji and chess, and that damnable Go she was introducing him too. “I’ve heard you say Clan and Blood, Kin and Kith.”

“Oh I know this, its the four bonds formed in life,” piped up the boys beside him, “can I tell it?”

Takara smiled at him, “Yes my kit.”

Haru immediately came to his knees kneeling beside Emhyr, his amber eyes intent as he looked at Emhyr, it didn’t take a genius to realise that to Haru and therefor a kitsune the information he was about to give was damn important.

“Clan is power, the aura that weaves together.  Clan share markings to denote their allegiance to each other. One does not need to be blood to be Clan, those who wish to be clan may ask to join, but must give up their ties to any other clan, the Clan head is the power of the clan and leads the clan in their Duties to the Land. Then there is blood, Blood is a tie, born from those that share its red ribbon, it is kindred whether blood born or given, Blood is important because of the lineage that you share.”  Haru’s voice had taken on a more mature note, and in the boys eyes the innocence of childhood seemed to be replaced by something so much older. Emhyr swallowed when he saw it, 

“And then there is kin, kin is a bond formed in friendship, it is those that are not blood but are tied to each other by honour and loyalty. Kin are always clan, but not always blood.

“Clan, Blood and Kin are the three sides of the triangle that is Family, the triangle is the strongest of all shapes, it cannot bend when we lean on each other.  The Family is the Clan and the Clan is the Family. Kith is the final bond, it is those who are friend and ally but not family, the bonds of kith may be transient, they ebb and flow with each person who comes into your life but the bonds that make up family never die.”

Emhyr listened intently, giving Haru the same focus he was showing Emhyr, and as the boy spoke he suddenly understood so much about Takara.  She had said that she had watched as those who had crossed worlds with her had faded and died for the sudden loss of Clan, and that the loss had affected several more to the point of madness.  She had been forced to kill them. If he understood what Haru was saying then it was a metaphysical bond that was necessary for a kitsune.  And that she had lived centuries without it, no wonder the witchers had been so incredibly important to her, she called them ll kin and the wolves clan.

He looked at her, wanting to confirm what he thought he understood, “how important is Clan?”

“It is everything, clan can be just a few members or it can be a family unit of hundreds, the strength of a family is all the family head.  And each Family swears its loyalty to the Empire of the Lands they live in, the Emperor or in my case Empress holds the Lands within their grasp to guide and guard the people,” she said gently.

And if it was everything than it was a testament to her inner strength that she hadn’t gone mad herself.

“Your Clan leader must be powerful indeed.” He said it not really thinking but as Haru started giggling and Takara smiled, he knew he was missing something.

“Hahaue is the clan leader, she heads the most powerful family in Nihvon.”

That... made sense, “How would they go without you?” 

“I’m sure my brother has everything well in hand, a clan will survive the leaders death as the next in line takes over.”

“Maeda, the old bat who gave me food sometimes said that the Land is stretched thin because the Empress isn’t here, it is why the other Emperors are gathering, but Lord Takahiro is ruling the southern lands in Hahaue’s name.”

“The bond I have with the land, it is like the Clan bond but different, it is still in effect, but if the other rulers try to start a war on my lands they severely under estimate Takahiro.”

“Your younger brother must be a power to be reckoned with.”

“My older brother, and yes he is a power in his own right, I have often asked if he wishes to start his own clan but he will not.”

“Loyalty counts in family.”

She nodded her head, “it does, but the bond you have with Haru will fade before Cirilla is Empress, which brings me back to the proposition I have for you.”

Emhyr shifted, wondering what she had in mind, “do tell, you have me intrigued.”

“Our discussion pertaining to the valley is that it will become a research centre, the keep can house two hundred and fifty, the bastion is being converted into a manor fort as is the old guard house and the tower into an observatory.”

“Yes, we discussed that there would be a full staff of servants, and that the village of Hendhaven a days ride from the valley would supply Kaer Morhen with its needs once more.  That left an opening for a hundred and fifty academic spots to fill, but I agree with you, we should limit it to a hundred at first.”

She nodded her head, but she was a little agitated he realised, the tips of her tails dancing ar ound her head were twitching, “My purview is the library, as it has always been, someone needs to run the keep and keep those that visit in line.”

Emhyr saw where she was going with this and felt goosebumps travel up his arms. “Yes, someone is certainly needed to run the keep and ensure the mages and academics don’t get into any mischief.  Do you have someone in mind?” He asked mildly and saw her amber eyes light with amusement, she wasn’t one he could fool. 

She chuckled, and shook her head, “he would need to be firm, have a strong reputation and be able to deal with those that while brilliant in their fields are often very blind to the world”

He grinned, “You want me to do it.”

“Do you have any plans for your retirement?”

“No, there are a few options, Ciri said something about taking governorship of Aedirn but I don’t want to rule a Provence, Toussaint is a possibility but Geralts estate would need extensive rebuilding, or I buy another.  Kaer Morhen would be a good idea.” He smiled at the thought, he had been to the keep twice, both times he had been awed by the natural beauty of the place.  He was due for another visit he thought, something to arrange when Takara came back so he could ensure the build was going well.

“Consider it then,” she said, and then stood up, “it is a possibility, but whoever is chosen to run the keep must meet my approval, I cannot tolerate someone on my territory who will not work with me.”

Emhyr nodded his head and stood up as well, “I’ll think about it while you’re gone, and give you my answer when you return.  I’ll talk to Geralt about it, he says he doesn’t care were we end up as long as people stop bowing to him.”

Her smile turned crafty, “you could always not tell him and surprise him, Kaer Morhen is home to him.”

Emhyr smiled back, he liked that idea, and he really liked the idea of managing the keep, it would still keep his mind active, and he would be able to peruse the stacks and the levels of the largest library in the world.

He walked Takara to the door, something he had never done before, she reached out and touched his cheek, “take care Emhyr”

He returned the gesture with the same one Geralt would do to her, he touched the hand that held him and said,”I have every intention, you be safe Takara.” She stepped back and Haru looked up at him, Emhyr opened his arms and hugged the boy, “take care of your mother and mind what she says this time.”

“I will, we will be back soon though, right Hahaue?”

“It won’t be long Haru, we will see the witchers before we leave and then we will travel to Ashkenab.”

She left, taking her kit with her and Emhyr walked back to his desk, taking his seat once more as his office filled with his aids and attendants.

Retirement at Kaer Morhen?  Yes he thought it was certainly something he would consider.  He thought about all that had happened in the last few days, the decisions that the witchers had made.  And the value Kaer Morhen had to them, he looked at Adventis.

“I want to see several statue makers in the next few days Adventis,” he had an idea, something that would make it apparent that Kaer Morhen had a past with the witchers even as it had a future with the Empire.

He thought about the five schools and the witchers who remained, yes he thought Kaer Morhen would be their memory, he would see to it.

 

———

 

Geralt and Lambert crossed blades again, but they weren’t fighting, this particular Kata called for them to weave in and out and around each other. It was a dizzying set of movements carefully choreographed because one wrong move, one slight dip of the blade saw the other witcher injured. 

They were not only going at witcher speed they were using live weapons for fun.

Most of them were gathered in the practice court that the witchers used, all of them except for the four that were rostered on for training that day and Balik who was teaching the up and coming officers their monsters.

“You wolves sure have some fancy foot work,” drawled Letho front he sidelines as he watched them.

“Better to kick a snakes ass with,” drawled Eskel back, he was carefully watching Lambert and Geralt, Lambert had only learned these moved about a decade ago when Vesemir had declared him ready. Wolf training was very precise on matters like this, Lambert hadn’t been okayed to utilise these moves in training without a trainer. Both Geralt and Eskel were trainers, but Eskel was overseeing the training session, Geralt knew that Eskel was worried that their brother would slip up.

So was he actually, but he kept his mind clear and focused, anything else was a worry or an intrusion that he didn’t need right now.

The Kata was almost over when Lambert slipped, his mind obviously not as clear as it should be as he twisted through the move, and went the wrong way. Geralt dropped to the floor, his legs going out in a horizontal split that was the only thing that saved him from being skewered.

“Fuck,” swore Lambert, and he reared back, dropping his sword as he did, it clanged as it bounced on the ground inches away from Geralts nose.

“That was a little too close,” Geralt remarked, his own heart thumping in response to the adrenaline now flooding his system. He got to his feet dusting himself off as he did and looked at Lambert, whose horrified expression said it all, “You went the wrong way.” 

“Don’t you think I fucking know that, fuck I almost skewered you.”

“Don’t think Geralts lover boy would like it much there, I’m no friend of his but I’d say he probably wants the wolf alive to skewer himself.”

“Shut up Letho,” growled Lambert and Eskel, letho held up his hands indicating he wasn’t going to say anymore, and walked away. Geralt shook his head, the Viper had decided to stay for a few days to see what they were doing here with the the training regime, he’d mostly been messing with the wolves and the griffins though.

Eskel stepped into the court, “recap where you went wrong Lambert.”

“Where do you think I fucking went wrong,” Lambert started

“Lambert” Eskel barked at him, drawing himself up as he crossed his arms.  Trainer pose thought Geralt, he picked up his sword from where he had dropped it before hitting the ground and left the ring.  If he knew Eskel he was about to chew Lamberts ass, “you’re in the ring and you know what that means.  You’re training. Where.did.you.go.wrong.” 

Lambert cursed, “I wasn’t thinking,” he snapped, “I let my brain take off elsewhere and then I moved wrong.”

“Then you know where you went wrong, if Geralt hadn’t dropped he would have been injured, and don’t glare at me, you need to hear this.  These Kata’s are very dangerous, the highly advanced forms are. You cannot let your mind wander.  Redo the Kata without Geralt, I want you to go over the 6th stage until you can do it in your sleep.”

“I can do it in my sleep, I just wasn’t thinking.”

“You’re not thinking can cost lives, redo the Kata Lambert.”

Lambert cursed again but did as Eskel instructed, Eskel walked up to Geralt, raising an eyebrow in question, Geralt shook his head, he was okay.

“He almost gelded you.”

Geralt just grinned, “lots of things have tried to geld me in the past, first time it was a brother.”

Eskel snorted and then turned back to watch Lambert, the youngest of the wolves had requested that his training in these advanced Kata’s resumed, Eskel had agreed to do it... hence the reason why they were on the court.  

Geralt walked out of the ring to grab an ale, and blinked suspiciously when Emilé handed him a brimming mug of Redanian larger.

“Can those forms be taught?” Asked the bear and Geralt who was in the process of surreptitiously sniffing the larger before taking a sip paused, “you want to learn the Kata’s?  Takara was the one that taught the wolves.”

“I’m aware of their origins, just wanted to know if you would mind teaching others beyond the basic ones that are taught if we train at Kaer Morhen.”

Geralt thought about it, “don’t see why not, but the ones that Lambert is training in are highly advanced, you train for decades before reaching them.”

Emilé just nodded, his blonde hair glinting in the sun as he watched Lambert perform the 6th stage of the Kata again and again.

“I was thinking that it would be good to share our knowledge with each other, you know... the forms and styles that we only keep to ourselves and our schools.”

Geralt eyed of Emilé, the bear had changed since the Munera, or more to the point since Takara had carted him off for a chat, he was more mellow, less prone to bursts of anger around them and while he was still a prick he had made slight overtures of friendship to them all.

“The idea has merit, I think it’s something we should all discuss with each other.” He sipped his larger and hmmmed, good batch he thought as he sipped again.

Emhyr didn’t serve beer at his table, hated the taste of it, so the only time Geralt could enjoy a cold one was with the witchers.

“The 4th division has requested the aid of a witcher,” the bear said conversationally

Geralt shrugged his shoulder, okay he thought, the bear was trying, the very least he could do in return was be professional, “Oh yeah? What’s the problem?”

“Twelve dead and no one knows why.”

“You going?” He asked, not hopeful.

“No Carnin took the contract, he’s heading up to Scala in Lyria tomorrow, sounds like he’ll have a tale to tell when he gets back. Its either something nasty or something embarrassing.”

“Hmmm” said Geralt in reply and went to make a joke when Haru suddenly appeared before him.

“Geralt,” the boy chirped with bright eyes, “Hahaue is teaching me Kata’s.”

Geralt smiled at him and ruffled the boys hair between his ears, “is that right horror, by the way whats this I hear that you were caught in the lake yesterday.”

The boy had managed to slip his leash and had been found butt naked in the ornamental lake by a visiting dignitary and his entourage.  Haru had apparently decided that he was going to fish.

While Witcher’s used bombs to fish, and humans nets and poles, Haru used his fangs and claws.

He’d had a pile of the ornamental carp by the time that Takara had pinned him, and she’d had to go swimming to do it because the boy was so happy to be in the water he had ignored his mothers order to get out.

 She’d fished him out, tossed him over her shoulder muddy and grumbling and then stalked over to the practice courts were she requested a free court.  There hadn’t been one at the time, but the nobles who had been there practicing had given theirs over to her. The lot of them had been surprised when the court had lit up with blue fire and when it had disappeared the fortune in gems, gold nuggets and silver had been enough to fill a vault 3 times over.  She had merely looked at her kit while dripping water and said, “start sorting.”

The boy had just sighed and started doing it, but the pile of carp.... Thank the gods Emhyr didn’t like the taste of carp, they had been given over to the gardeners to make fertiliser with.

Haru blushed at Geralt, “I didn’t mean to not listen to Hahaue, but the fish were so exciting and so hard to catch in the water.”

“How long did it take you to sort the gems?” He asked.

“He finished close to midnight, didn’t you my kit.” Takara came over to them, standing behind her boy with her hand on his shoulder.

Haru nodded his head with a grimace, “it took forever, and I didn’t get to see Emhyr in the afternoon with Elka.”

“You didn’t miss much, Elka was having her governance lesson, but you’re on the Kata’s now? Elka has advanced to the last of the intermediate forms now.”

“Can I learn with her?”

Geralt looked at Takara, she nodded her approval, “sure thing Haru, Elka has lessons in the morning with me three days a week.”

“When we come back from Ofir you can join them Haru.”

“So you are helping the Malliq?”

“More to the point I am aiding Nihara, we negotiated, she will owe me a favour if I find the cause for the Za’aali’s migration and deal with it.”

Geralt paused, “Sand Crawler is our term isn’t it?”

“Yes they call themselves the Za’aali, the children of Z’al. They’re a cold blooded race, mostly scaled, reptilian in nature.  But while they dislike humans for encroaching on their territory, they like human made things, often repurposing them for their own use. Hence the friction and the fighting.  But I’ll see what I can do.”

“Who are you taking as backup?” Asked Emilé mildly.

Geralt snorted into his beer as Takara looked at the Bear, a hint of confusion in her amber eyes, “backup?” She asked, obviously finding the idea a little perplexing.

“Takara doesn’t need backup bear,” Geralt said trying and actually succeeding in not laughing at the idea of her needing backup.

“Yes I’m aware that you don’t take backup with you, but you can’t deny you’re still recovering.” Geralt looked surprised, he hadn’t known the others knew about her hand, and then he focused on what Tellra was saying and couldn’t deny he had a point.

She growled at him and tightened her left hand into a fist, “It is not an issue.”

“You may not be an actual Witcher Takara but you’re one of us, you’re still recovering, you need someone with you just in case.”

She looked baffled, “I do not need-“

“I agree with the bear,” said Geralt gruffly and was on the receiving end of a somewhat cold glare.

“What’s going on?” Asked Eskel and Lambert the two of them wandering over to see what they were squaring off over.

Tellra told them and the two other wolves at first had Geralts reaction snickering but then when her injury was mentioned they turned serious, “Never thought I’d agree with Tellra, but I do, I’ll go,” said Lambert.

“No,” She hissed.

They ignored her, “You need back up, and no offence to the young wolf but I’ve got several more centuries and six decades in Ofir under my belt I’ll go with her.”

It started an argument between the five of them that wasn’t exactly heated but the four witchers weren't backing down over Takara taking one of them. It was a two way argument because Tellra and Lambert weren’t backing down over who was going either.

It was only when Balik wandered over to them coming in for his lunch hour, and listened for all of three minutes that decided it for them.

“Takara, remember that favour you owe me?”

“Balik,” she said with a slight growl to her voice, her eyes reddening in irritation at the Griffins words.

“Take both of them, you may not need it or you might.”

She did let loose a pissed off growl then and then pointed at them all, “fine, you may come to Ashkenab, but from there we will see how useful you can be.”

Geralt felt relieved to hear it, Emilé nodded his head, then looked at Lambert, “you know anything about desert fighting?”

“No.”

“Then we had best go over your gear and what not to get you outfitted.”

“Don’t got much.”

Tellra looked him over, then shrugged, “We’ll find enough, come on pup.” 

He turned walking towards the barracks, as Lambert yelled, “don’t call me pup,” but was wandering after him.

When the court only had the few of them remaining Geralt noted Takara’s expression, it was thoughtful.

“What is it?”

“I actually think having the two of them with me will do both of them good,” was all she said and then looked at Balik, “but you knew that didn’t you?”

Balik just gave them all a cryptic smile as he picked up a mug of larger and downed it in one hit, “gotta get back to my students, take care in Ofir Takara, and keep those two out of trouble.” He rumbled as he lumbered back towards the 1st division HQ, his steps surprisingly quick for a man his size.

Takara just hissed a little and then looked at Haru, “it appears my kit, we shall have company on this trip.”

Haru nodded solemnly to her, “the bear and the wolf can hunt many creatures though Hahaue, and it is a wise one who knows when to ask for help.”

The kit was surprisingly smart for his age thought Geralt, but them remembered that Haru’s mind was much older than the age he appeared.

He ruffled the boys head again, “you keep those two out of your mothers hair Haru, thats your job okay.”

Haru just smiled at Geralt, flashing his tiny little fangs, “Yes Geralt, I can do that.”

Takara just sighed, “and this was supposed to be a relaxing get away.”

Geralt laughed, with Tellra and Lambert, there wasn’t going to be any time for relaxing he thought.

 

 

 

 

* if you need a visual, think of Ashkenab as the city of Petra.    

Chapter Text

Chapter 31

 

2 weeks later 

 

Geralt hissed out a curse as Balik hit him with a aard that knocked him back about 6 paces, the Griffin was positively damn good with his signs and as they went through the paces of a freestyle fight Geralt had quickly realised that Balik may be missing limbs, but the griffin was still deadly.

The jeers and hoots from the others who were gathered to watch him and Balik weren’t for Balik, they all took immense pleasure in helping their friend and mentor relearn how to fight with his prosthetics.  It was the one who was working with Balik often was the one on the receiving end of some not so gentle slurs.

“All that fancy footwork and you can’t keep your feet on an aard wolf,” drawled Letho.

“Hit him harder Balik, take him down a peg or two,” laughed Tollas as he clapped at the move.

“You’re not allowed to peg him, that’s for someone else to do,” Letho replied snidely that was uncalled for Geralt thought indignantly.

The raucous laughter from the gathered eight witchers was galling but Geralt did his best to ignore them, Balik was after all, or maybe not he thought when he saw Balik roll his eyes.

“You’d think they have better things to do,” the Griffin grumbled, Geralt snorted and shook his head, pulling his sword up into position.

“That would be a dream to far.”

The griffin rumbled a laugh and then took his own stance, as Geralt attacked he went for Baliks right leg, as underhanded as it was to go for his weakness, this was what the training was all about.

They didn’t go hard, but they were going witcher speed.  And for a crippled old witcher, Balik could put up a damn good fight.

One that left the younger wolf panting and sweating.

At the end of the session Tollas called time with a grin and a half, “you kept your feet all session Balik,” Balik returned the grin.

“The wolf wasn’t going hard enough,” grunted Letho as he pushed himself up off the wall, uncrossing his arms as he did.

“Oh he was going plenty hard enough Letho, how about you step into the ring tomorrow with me and see how we go,” murmured Balik with an evil smile.

“If you feel like exercise Letho, sign up for the Munera the day after tomorrow, easy money,” said Geralt, knowing how Letho felt about Nilfgaard.

The Viper gave him a cold hard stare, and then left.

“Don’t tease him about Nilfgaard wolf,” said Balik with a sigh.

“I’ll apologise later, just getting sick of all the snide comments,” he muttered, not feeling chastised in the least for being petty as he heard the snickers from a few of the watchers.  

Pietrev jumped to the ground from the 1st floor balcony where he had been lounging on the railing, “I’ll talk to him, he’s being an insufferable asshole.”  The other witcher followed his mate out, jogging to catch up with him.

Tollas looked over Geralts shoulder and a look in his eyes made Geralts back straighten.

“Your handlers here.” The other Griffin murmured, his eyes glinting their mirth at him as Geralt gave a silent groan as he turned around.

Corbin, dressed as straight as could be in unrelieved black and yellow almost marched up to Geralt who was dressed as comfortably as possible in his practice clothes.  Corbin usually stayed at the front entrance, preferring to be there should the need arise.

“Yes Corbin,” he asked mildly.

“Sir Geralt, you have a meeting scheduled with the Ladies of Succour this afternoon, I really must insist you return to the palace to make ready, any later and you will be... tardy for it.”

As far as Geralt was aware this was a day off, “when did my schedule change?”

“An hour ago sir, the missive came from his Imperial Majesty, her Imperial Highness was scheduled to attend but she’s had to leave the City rather urgently.”

Geralt muttered to himself, but knew he couldn’t get out of it, “well gentlemen, looks like duty calls.”

“Your duty sucks,” said Hayden, he wasn’t wrong there thought Geralt.

“Good luck with the good ladies, I hear their quite the ahh, noble and devout group.”  Balik murmured, it didn’t take Geralt much to realise that they knew more about the Ladies than he did, in fact other than hearing the name in passing he had no idea what the group was about.

As he waved to them all and followed his secretary out he said to Corbin, “what do I need to know?”

“The Ladies are a venerable order of the most devout and most important noble ladies within the city, they have undertaken the pious duty in giving aid and succour to those who need it most after the war, they visit the bereaved to offer comfort and solace.”

Oh fuck me sideways, Geralt thought as he rolled his eyes, “Ciri went with them?”

“She would meet with them every few months to see if there was anything that she could do to aid them in their cause.”

“And what does his Imperial Majesty want me to do with them?” He was planning on having words to Emhyr about this, he understood that as a member of the Imperial Family he was needed to do ‘things’ but after the Ladies Solar Emhyr had said he would make it so that Geralt didn’t need to attend the women’s committees and meetings.

“Your presence is merely needed to assuage the ladies that the Imperial family take their work seriously. I’ve taken the liberty of informing Lord Chrissolm and Master Eskel that their presence is required to attend you.”

Great, Eskel had the day off too so that was going to throw him out and into a mood, but as far as Geralt was concerned if he had to suffer, so did Eskel.

“Good I hope Eskel is coming armed for battle,” he muttered as he walked out of the witcher headquarters and towards his horse.  

This afternoon wasn’t shaping up to be the best, but he had to wonder, what had taken Ciri out of the Capital?

 

————

 

Emhyr tapped a finger into the arm of his chair as he listened to the report, Ciri had managed to track down everyone of the traitor mages who had been working with Gerantieth, all nineteen of them. But the last one, Master Kilgreth, a sorcerer of some repute had escaped the net she had thrown to bring them to justice, all of those she had caught were waiting his judgement in the dungeons.  

Ciri had thrown causation to the wind however and her and Yennefer had left to track Kilgreth to Aedirn, Emhyr had understood the reason, but had ordered she take a guard with her, Morvran was leading it.

The report that was verbally being read to him was the update to the mages currently in confinement and was for some very interesting listening.  All of them were begging to be let loose, all of them saying that they had information on this and that.  What they all didn’t realise was that the information to this and that would be extracted from them, painfully if need be, but one of the females had information about Vilgefortz’s study in the palace, a place that Emhyr had never been able to find.

His dilemma was did he authorise Arabellia’s release and pardon so that she could lead them to it or did he leave it alone, she would have to lead them because you could only enter the room if invited.  She had managed to subvert the spells to her and Gerantieth years ago .

He could always double cross her, that was an option, up until a few years ago he would have taken without another thought but now, now his beloveds nobility was influencing his decisions.

His office door opened and the object responsible for his hesitation strolled in, dressed beautifully in an outfit that both hinted and revealed his trim and muscular figure in a stunning black and silver doublet and hose.  He couldn’t help watch Geralt prowl down the carpet towards his desk, Emhyr knew that Geralt would have returned from his afternoons meeting with the Ladies of Succour and judging by the glint in Geralts eye, Emhyr was going to hear about it.  Emhyr waved his aids away as Geralt came before him.

Then forestalled Geralt by saying, “this is all your fault witcher.”

Geralt came to a complete stop near his desk and blinked at the accusation, his look of bafflement was amusing but not what Emhyr wanted to see.

“What did I do?”

“You infected me.”

Geralt looked so damn puzzled it was endearing, “witchers don’t catch diseases, we certainly can’t spread them, no matter what they say in the north about it.”

“I’m not talking about diseases Geralt I’m talking about your innate nobility and good nature.”

“I infected you with common decency?” The bemused frown told him that Geralt was starting to see some humour in the accusation.

“Yes”

“I don’t consider that to be a bad thing, but why are you whinging about it now?”

Emhyr narrowed his eyes at Geralt, he wasn’t whinging.

“I want to double cross a traitor mage and you infected me so I’m now questioning whether I should.”

“I can make it easy for you,” his lover purred at him, a smiled on his lips.

“Do tell.”

Geralt put his hands on the desk and leaned over it, looking him dead in the eye, if it had been anyone else Emhyr wouldn’t have been amused, as it was Geralt was the only one allowed to approach him thus. His lover looked at him, his amber eyes amused, but also serious, “Be yourself and take her for whatever she’s got, when your sitting at this desk your the Emperor of Nilfgaard, she’s a traitor... do what needs to be done.”

Emhyr gave him a quick half smile, “as you advise beloved,” he murmured and waved over Adventis and his Blade.

He gave them the order to offer Arabellia a ‘pardon’, they understood what he meant and a sly smile on the blades face told him he approved.

As they bowed at his dismissal Emhyr looked at the time, nearly four bells he thought as the sundial showed him where it was.

He looked at the reports on his desk, he had nearly completed this months regional reports, the reports his governors and ambassadors sent on a monthly basis.  Some were the same, never changing, some changed considerably.  It was integral to his rule to read them, Geralt must have deduced the look on his face.

“I’ll read, you do what you need to do.”

He nodded his head, and as Geralt moved off to the small sitting area, where the book he had been reading the day before had been left out for him. He picked up the report for the Tou’lec region and started to read the ten page document. 

He was vaguely aware of the bells tolling as he read through the final of the last reports, and he wrote his recommendations to the Ambassador of Aedirn.

After the progress and the resulting assassination attempt on Elka, Emhyr had come down hard on the nobles in Aedirn, confiscating estates of several of the lords who had thought that they could hide their affiliations in helping the traitors.  He had installed some of his most deserving Military commanders into those titles and estates, giving them titles as a reward of their service.  And while it was often common for a new ruler to do just that Emhyr had tried not to be so heavy handed in the first years after Aedirn had come under his rule.  Now, he didn’t care if the people didn’t like it.  

He would make Aedirn safe for Elka if it was the last thing he did as Emperor.

With the last of his work done for the day, he put his quill down and stretched his neck, wincing as it cracked in several places, he almost leapt out of his chair though when two hands came down onto his shoulders.

“Jumpy there today Emhyr,” he heard Geralt say as he tried to get his heart rate back under control.

“Don’t do that beloved,” he growled then let loose a long drawn out groan as Geralts talented fingers dug into the tender spots in his neck and shoulders.

He seemed to melt into a boneless puddle in seconds and he leaned forward to let Geralt get those spots that were feeling tender.

“What’s on tonight?” Asked Geralt.

Emhyr tried to focus, a little hard when the tension of the last few days was being massaged away, “hnnn? Just the usual entertainments for the court, I have no desire to partake tonight.”

“So no songs and dance routines, mage crafted illusions or acrobatics?” Geralt teased him.

“If you continue I’ll ensure that we attend the poetry sessions in the Pavillon Garden tonight.”

“The what?”

“The poetry recitations, they’re held once a month on the full moon in the Pavillon, Takara went and by all accounts the nobles who were there were astounded by her grace and her poetry.”

Geralt paused in his ministration, “they what? Gather around and recite poetry.”

“Yes, most often theres a theme and the theme is chosen that night, Takara apparently stunned them all with a softly spoke recitation to the moons light.  I have a copy of it, you can read it if you want.”  He knew Geralt liked to read poetry, it had surprised him when he had found out that little tidbit about his love.

“Thanks I’d like to, but I certainly don’t want to partake in poetry.”

“Are you sure? your limericks are quite entertaining,” Geralt paused in his ministrations and Emhyr couldn’t help the smile, “Lambert Lambert what a prick, the witcher with the smalles-“

Geralts hand was over Emhyrs mouth in a snap, “why do your spies report everything?” He grumbled.

Emhyr pulled Geralts hand from his mouth and stood up turning around to face his love and pushing the chair away from them.

He leant back on the desk and couldn’t help the smug smile he gave Geralt who was looking at him rather disgruntled.  

“Beloved... when have I ever not used every means at my disposal to keep you close, especially as you trapeze about the City in an unsafe district blind drunk. They were merely there to ensure you got back to the palace safe.”

Geralt sighed and Emhyr chuckled then reached out to grip Geralts sleeve and tug him forward, Geralt came very willingly, as he stepped into the cradle of Emhyrs thighs Emhyr knew the precise moment when Geralt realised that he held the dominant position.

Those strange fae amber eyes flared with desire, and he bracketed Emhyr in, Geralt stared into Emhyrs eyes.  As Emhyr looked back he honestly felt that he could loose himself into those eyes, the depths they held into a soul so pure and delightful.

“What is it that you see when you look at me?” He murmured.

Emhyr reached out and gently touched one finger to Geralts lip, “I see you, the kindness that lies deep within, the formidable will and determination that has driven you through the century.  I see the love you have for me, and for Ciri and Elka, the compassion that drives you to offer your services for lesser than they’re worth.”

“You see all that?”

“I see so much more Geralt, I see desire and liquid heat.  I see your deepest darkest desires and know what you want even when you refuse to see it as what you want.”

“Oh?”

Emhyrs smile deepened and he reached out, took hold of Geralts face with both hands and then gave him a kiss they both felt to their souls. He moved to Geralts ear and whispered just what he knew about his beloved.  How his lover a man so used to being relied on wanted nothing more than to rely the one he loved, he whispered about how much that aroused him, that Geralts need and desires were in perfect harmony with his own.  He told Geralt that there was nothing more beautiful to him that the moment Geralt let go of his control, the moment when Geralt surrendered to the passion and the need within him.

By the end of it Geralt was fully aroused and Emhyr had pulled him close, their clothed bodies moving against one another sensually, he let Geralt gently thrust his hips, the friction on their clothed cocks incredible in the heat of the moment. 

Geralts honey eyes were almost glowing and Emhyr knew that every word he had spoken had reverberated deep within Geralts core, it was a truth his witcher could no longer deny about himself.

He wrapped his legs around Geralt pulling him closer and embracing him, there were times he thought as Geralt cried out in the embrace, that heavy petting could be encouraged.

It didn’t take him long, Geralt was so highly aroused by what he was hearing that all Emhyr really needed to do, was encourage Geralt into moving, and whispered words that made Geralt shudder to hear them.

He did enjoy pushing Geralt to the absolute limit of his need and desire.

When Geralt had come down off the sexual high that had followed his release Emhyr was still holding him, he released his witcher.  Geralt stood up then looked down at himself with a scowl.

 “Gods, I haven't done that since I was a kid,” he muttered embarrassed.

Emhyr didn’t smile, he just commanded Geralts attention as he stood up, pushing Geralt back, “we shall retire,” he said firmly. “The afternoon is young, Elka doesn’t have a lesson with me and I have plans that involve you and your cooperation.”

He saw Geralts eyes widen a little and his lover swallowed, “where?”

Emhyr did smile then, a sensual demand that promised so much, “where do you think beloved?” He purred as he took Geralts arm in his own and started to walk towards the study doors.

He knew that Geralt would have to grin and bear the walk back, but for the sake of Geralts comfort, he wouldn’t tarry... much.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 32

 

2 days later

 

When Geralts entourage of twelve Impera Brigade and his two attendants plus secretary clipped into the palace complex at a fast trot he knew immediately that something was wrong. The air had a feel to it that not only made him alert, it also made him wary.

He looked at Eskel who looked back at him with the same knowledge in his eyes, the other witcher sensed it too.

Instead of taking the horses to the stables on the grounds, which was a good twenty minute walk back, Geralt turned Roach towards the Parade Grounds and the Imperial Palace proper, he felt so uneasy, he wasn’t wasting his time walking back.

Both he and Eskel were off their horses the moment they came to the steps leading up into the palace, as the both of them took the stairs at a double time poor Chrissolm was running after them, “sir Geralt, whats the matter?” The lad managed to gasp out as the guards leapt to open the massive golden doors.  

That should have been open.

“Where’s the Emperor?” Geralt growled at one of them, the guard immediately bowed at him and it took everything Geralt had not to  the pick the guy up and shake the answer out of him.

“Healers wing sir, the Princess arrived back, half her guard were slaughtered and -“ Geralt didn’t hear anymore, he took off for the healers wing at a run, Eskel at his heals and Chrissolm far behind. 

And as he ran he prayed that whatever had happened wasn’t the worse.

He came round the corner to see far more people than should be there at the entrance to the Healers wing, and he yelled, “all non essential personnel return to your duties, or remove yourselves away from the area.” He didn’t take in that his order was instantly obeyed, but crashed through the doors with a bang that would have been felt as well as heard.

Ciri spun about when he did, worry and grief on her face and her leather armour coated in blood, Emhyr was standing with Prince Voorhis, whose usually stoic expression had crumbled into a veneer of anguish.  His heart in his throat as he saw his daughter and the fear he himself was feeling started to ebb, she was safe, he thought.  Ciri almost leapt into his arms, “Geralt,” she cried, her expression saying so much, and none of it good.  It took him a heartbeat to ensure that none of the blood on her was her own and he embraced her, concentrating on her heartbeat as he did... the pace fast, too fast, but it was there.

He had feared the worst.

“What happened,?”

She looked at him, took a deep breath to steady herself and then she spoke, “we had captured Kilgreth, were in the process of getting ready to return when we were attacked by several lesser vampires. It happened so fast, the guard fought back and we had killed them when a higher vampire came out of nowhere, Morvran got between me and it, he took the blow meant for me.”

He heard a hiss from Morvrans father and looked up to the prince, there was anger and rage in his eyes as he looked at Ciri, “my son lies close to death because of you, you -“ 

“Be careful of what you say Voorhis, I will allow your fear for your son to go only so far.” Emhyr said coldly.

Ciri went to say something and judging by the look on her face, she was probably going to offer an apology, in the political climate of the day, and to the man whose son she was marrying, the Empress to be couldn’t do it.

Geralt distracted her instead, “how many attacked you?”

She blinked at him then narrowed her eyes, trying to remember, “four, two Fleders and a Garkain.  Then the higher vampire.”

Eskel and Geralt looked at each other, that was odd, he thought, “Fleders and Garkain are solitary Geralt, they shouldn’t be working together.”

Geralt agreed, “everything Ciri, I need you to tell me absolutely everything,” he led her over to one of the seating areas, getting her to take a seat as he poured her a glass of water.   Eskel hurried over to the desk where a healer would often sit to speak to those who came in, he filched paper and a quill with a ink and came back over, dragging a small table with him as he did.

“Witcher report?” She said dryly, her voice stil shaking though.

“Yes, we need to know every detail, fleders and Garkain don’t hunt together, there are reports of them fighting over territory and prey so this mutual co-operation is unusual. I can think of only one account where they did.” 

She nodded her head, and then she told them everything.

From the sudden attack, to how the guard had handled everything, there had been deaths, but their training had worked well and they had fought with courage and determination, the tactics successful. She told them about the deaths of first the Garkain and then the two fleders, the creatures deaths had been her doing.  That Yennefer had fought as well as she could considering the weakness in her lungs, Ciri had told them that she had been the only one to have a silver blade on her, she had been in the thick of fighting, using both her skills as a witcheress and her abilities as the Lady of Space and Time.  When the three creatures had been killed and they had all been coming to grips in the seconds after the fight, the higher vampire had just formed out of red mist.  An older male, handsome in their way with black hair and red eyes, his appearance had at first confused the guard into thinking he was a mage, but Ciri had known otherwise.  She had raised her blade a warning at her lips when Morvran had stepped between her and the vampire.  The vampire moved, clawing out and taking the general in the shoulder, Ciri had reacted her power knocking the vampire back. Yennefer had already come to the same conclusion as Ciri and had opened a portal to order an immediate retreat, Ciri had grabbed Morvran knowing that the injury was dire and before the Vampire could move to attack again, she had brought her and Morvran to the palace.

And then all hell had broken loose at the return of her and Morvran, mainly because Prince Voorhis had been in the same area that Ciri had transported them too, not caring about protocol in the emergency.

At the end of it, Geralt made sure Eskel had written every thing she’d said, and then the two witchers peppered her with questions to jog her memory, but she had mostly recounted everything already.

“Morvran is in good hands Ciri,” he said to her, knowing that she had developed feelings for the General and her Fiancée in the last two years working with him

“Yes, Lanfare is the greatest healer in the land, and the surgeon from Oxenfurt is meant to be one of the best in her field.”

“Shani? That she is,” Geralt said with a smile, “battle trained surgeon and a brilliant medic.”

“Thats right you know her don’t you, tell me about her.”

He knew why she was asking, she wanted him to keep her distracted, when it came to periods of stressful waiting she had a tendency to worry on the what ifs when she wasn’t distracted.

So Geralt told her about how he had first met Shani, about her daring and her cunning, her devotion to her patients and how he had met her all those years ago and how she had helped them hunt Rience.

“You really need to tell her how I kept having to stitch you up over the years.” Geralt looked up with a smile, Shani stood with Lanfare just inside the room, through his retelling, both Emhyr and Prince Voorhis had joined them to listen to his tale. Voorhis who had probably wanted to know more about the woman who held his sons life in her hands stood up, completely focused on the two healers.

His and her schedule had been busy for the last few weeks and he hadn’t been able to see her, and unfortunately when he had come to the healers wing she hadn’t been available.  She looked good he thought, happy even he thought, a little older definitely, but happier.

“Half my scars are only as small as they are because of you, hows Morvran?” He knew it was okay, she had a tired but smiling edge to her eyes.  A look that she wouldn’t have if she and Lanfare had to part bad news.

Shani looked at Lanfare, who gave a tired sigh, “he’s not out of the woods, but I’m confident that not only will he make it but Master Surgeon Shani has saved his arm.”

Voorhis seemed to collapse on himself and Ciri gave a shuddering breath, “you got him here on time Ciri, any later and he may have lost most use of it, but as it is Shani has done the best work I’ve ever seen from a surgeon. He may have a little bit of weakness in his left arm and his road to a full recovery will take a while but he will heal.”

Shani looked embarrassed, “I wouldn’t have been able to do even that Lanfare if you hadn’t been able to stabilise him through the surgery.”

Lanfares magic wasn’t unique, but it was rare, his innate ability to heal was an incredible gift but the power it took to heal could drain him faster than anything and he was in danger of passing out or killing himself if he wasn’t careful.  Geralt knew that Lanfare augmented his abilities with the aid of surgeons and medics, he only used his powers in emergencies and light healing, like sprains.  And over time he would cox the body through a gentle healing until the person was as whole as he could make them.

“Thank you master Lanfare, Master Shani, the Voorhis house owes you a debt.” Said the prince with a nod to acknowledge them and their efforts

“Think nothing of it your highness, it is our duty to aid those who need it, come I will take you to see your son, Princess? I’ll take you shortly, I don’t want too many around him at once.”

With that Lanfare bowed to Emhyr and escorted Voorhis towards the patient rooms, deeper into the wing.

“Well done Master Surgeon, its not often that Lanfare will sing such praises.” Said Emhyr as he turned to Shani. 

Shani blushed and bowed, “thank you your Imperial Majesty, Master Lanfare is an extraordinary healer, working with him is not only an honour but a privilege.”

“Yes, I’m sure it is, Geralt, Eskel come see me after this, I want the witchers perspective on what’s occurred,” both bowed to him as he nodded to them.

He then kissed Ciri on the brow his hand holding hers tightly as he stared at her, obviously making sure she was well as could be, “you did well luned, if you hadn’t thought to bring him as close to the healers wing as you could it could have turned out for the worst.”

“Yes Papa, thank you for being here.”

“There isn’t anywhere I’d rather be than here with you when you need it,” he said and then left the waiting room, calling for his aids and attendants as he did.

Ciri turned tired eyes to them, in particular Eskel, “I told father, the good news is we found Kilgreth, Yen took custody of him.”

“Well at least that investigation is over,” said the other witcher, he gave her a bone cracking hug, “I’ll leave, I want to look over the books in Geralts rooms, see if there’s anything I’m missing,. Come get me wolf before we go see Emhyr.”

“Will do Eskel.”

As Eskel left and Ciri gave him a smile, she turned to go and sit down, “I need a little time to think, you two say hi.”

he shook his head but turned to look at his red headed medic, “Its so good to see you,” he said warmly and she smiled at him.

“What no hug, or isn’t it allowed by the Emperors Intended,” she teased, he laughed, glad to see her sense of humour was still there. The two friends embraced, he could feel the tension of the day in her as he did, knowing her intimately gave him some idea into the stress she carried.

“I am so glad you’re here.”

“I got your letter in Rinde, but so much was happening with an outbreak of Catriona that I forgot until a year ago, by then I had the offer to come here and study.” she said, referring to the letter he had written to her in the days after the Battle on Temple Isle, and the outbreak of plague that had struck the small region just as Emhyr had reached Tretegor.

“All good, I heard about the Catriona outbreak, never seen Emhyr work so hard to pull in the resources and the vaccine before it spread out of the area.”

“I’ve never had such good luck when the Nilfgaard Medical Unit arrived, I had already lost near to eighteen people and then mages and medics appeared along with several battalions.  It was done with such incredible precision that when I got the offer from Master Lanfare I jumped at the chance to study under him.”

She gestured to an area to sit, “I need to get off my feet Lord Morvrans surgery was hard, he’s lucky that her highness immobilised and tourniquet his arm in the seconds that they were here before the call went up for us.  After those claws cut through the humerus, the blood loss was bad enough but that injury was the worst of it all.  Master Lanfare has an absolute gift, he gave me the time to stitch the main artery and the wounds, he then stabilised the bone so that it can mend.” 

She sat down with a bone weary sigh and Geralt looked about, seeing a pitcher of water and some glasses, he went to get her one and came back and sat down next to her. She accepted it with a thanks and took a long drink with a sigh.

“He saw me out of a rough patch.”

“I heard about it briefly from Eskel,” she said, sitting back up and looking at him,  “but other than that how have you been.”

“I’m well, as you can see my life turned upside down and inside out in the last few years and other than the bowing and the scrapping and the constant perusal of my affairs from everyone I’m getting better over it, but I heard you got married.”

She laughed, “Yes, to a Nilfgaardian officer, Major Enderick van’de Bielt, we met during the outbreak.  He’s wonderful Geralt, I was hesitant at first but when my invitation here came in his superior requested a transfer to the 1st division, it came through so I accepted his proposal and here we are.” She shrugged her shoulders but the blush on her cheeks and the slight raise in her heartbeat told Geralt that she was very much in love with her husband.

“Congratulations Shani, he’s a very lucky man to have you.” He rasped, happy for her and he reached out to take hold of her hand, giving it a squeeze as he did.

“Thank you Geralt,” she said, squeezing back and then her green eyes danced at his, “and his Imperial Majesty is very lucky to have found you.  I nearly fell over when I found out just who had finally claimed your heart,” she teased.

Geralt grumbled under his breath, “yeah yeah, it was a surprise I can certainly say that.”

“I’m sure, I never thought you would actually be tamed, and if you were it would be a sorceress, not the most powerful man in the Empire.”

She looked up and Geralt followed, watching Lanfare step back into the room and gesture to Ciri, as Ciri went up to the elven healer Prince Voorhis sneered at her, “my son is asleep, there isn’t any need to disturb him for her.”

“She won’t be disturbing him your highness but her Imperial highness has every right to see General Voorhis. She is his fiancée after all, unless thats now in question?” Lanfare murmured, his voice firm and not a little unkind.

Voorhis just glared at Ciri and without another word left, Ciri sighed “Thank you Lanfare, he’s not going to be easy to manage after Morvran and I marry is he?”

“No, but if I know the var Emreis line, and I do, you’ll handle him as brilliantly as your father does.” Lanfare gave her a rather chilling smile, one that was the twin to Emhyr’s rather Imperial look and told Geralt the healer was harder than he let on. “Besides my dear, your marriage contract was brilliantly crafted, if anything were to happen to you and Emhyr comes back, his wrath will be like an unleashed horror on those responsible.”

She gave him a smile as chilling as Lanfares own, yeah thought Geralt, those genes had rung true.

“Alright old man, take me to Morvran.”

Lanfare nodded and then looked at Shani, “my apologies Shani but would you mind starting the afternoon rounds, I’ll join you soon.”

“Not a problem, its been good to see you again Geralt, we need to sit and have a good chat soon.”

“I’d love to Shani, I have a secretary now,” he grimaced at the word and Shani just chuckled, “but I’ll have him ‘schedule’ in an appointment with you. I’d like to meet your husband.”

“He’d like to meet you too.”

With that Shani gave him a hug and then disappeared into the wing after Lanfare and Ciri, Geralt took a deep breath and let it out.

Right he thought, track down Eskel and then go see Emhyr.

That ambush or attack or whatever had too many variables for him to be comfortable, and something in his instincts and intuition was sparking off the itchy feeling he got when there was danger.  

And after a century listening to his instincts Geralt wasn’t going to stop now.

There was more to this.

 

————

 

Emhyr sat at his desk coldly ruminating over the reports infront of him, he wasn’t able to think on them, his mind wandering to the attack on his daughter.

He had been in a meeting with several of the Senate, Voorhis included when a commotion just outside the doors to the council meeting room had alerted him to a possible danger.

It was when Fainrael had suddenly thrown the door open and said that her highness had returned and General Voorhis injured that he had known just what was going on.

Stepping out into the large foyer and seeing his daughter covered in blood and the glittering motes of her power still danced green and teal lights about the room, had chilled him to the core. But as she snapped orders as she worked to stabilise Morvrans injury he had known she was okay. And that her presence could command even the most reserved of the senate members.

He was thankful that Morvran would recover, not that an Emperor Consort needed a fully functioning arm, but if he had died it would have been a tragedy, he was a good man, a brilliant tactician and General.  And the work with her marriage contract would have all been in vain, not to mention Prince Voorhis’s anger at the loss of his favourite son.

He had cleared the room when he had returned wanting quite and solitude, but was still unable to focus, he stood up and walked over to the sideboard and broke a cardinal rule of his. He poured a measure of hard liquor into a small glass, he never drank strong spirits while working but today he felt the need to fur his nerves so to speak.  

He then walked out onto the balcony behind his desk, placing the glass on the stone balustrade and leant on it.  He looked out over his City, the late afternoon sun glinting off nearly a thousand golden spires, and turning the stunning light grey and marble stone of the cities buildings into a glowing masterpiece.

As he sipped the Mandrake Cordial he watched the colours change as the afternoon wore on, he heard the glass door cleverly made in the large stained glass window open, there was only one person who would be here when he had ordered no interruptions.

He turned his head to look at Geralt, who had changed and carried his own glass of spirits, “Eskel and I decided to partake in your generosity, seems you did too.”

“I felt the need to try and relax.”

“I have a better idea but it will have to wait.” Geralt gave him a leer and Emhyr rolled his eyes.

“Insatiable witcher,” he murmured his amusement into his glass as he took the last little sip.

Geralt snorted, “its your fault, I mean I’m a witcher, I like sex on a fairly regular basis but you spoil me.”  Geralt stepped up to him and Emhyr felt a strong battle hardened hand on his waist, Geralt couldn’t embrace him in public and the balcony was very public but The hand on his waist said ‘I’m here’

“She’s okay Emhyr.”

“I know, your training with her, and the training of the guard who accompanied Ciri saved her, for that I am eternally grateful.”

“How bad is it that Morvran was hurt?”

“Politically speaking, its nothing, he was injured in his duty and thats how everyone will see it.  His father will probably try to make waves like he always does but it won’t amount to anything.”

“Good, I was worried he might try a grab at more power or demand that the wedding won’t go through.”

Emhyr shook his head, “he’ll loose any access to the throne if he does that and he knows it.  He might have reacted with more emotion than usual but he really does love his son.”

With that he stood up from his lean, “are you and Eskel ready to give me a witchers report on this?”

“Yes, although we want to discuss this with the others as well, see if they have heard anything so this is a preliminary report, subject to change.”

Emhyr nodded his head and let Geralt lead him back inside, he saw that Eskel had over taken the massive table in the centre of the room, the one that was used for planning.  The other witcher had several books laid out and a raft of hastily written notes.  And the map of the area that Ciri had been attacked in.

“What am I looking at?” He asked the witchers, his voice commanding as he came to the head of the table.

“What we know about vampire activity in that area, mind you the information is somewhat out of date, the last report that was given was by Coën twenty odd years ago.” Said Eskel as he reached out and pointed to the point on the map, “there was a vampire hunting in that area, never killed as there was never a contract taken out, we do know that it was supposed to be either a bruxa or a Katakan, Geralt confirmed recently that Katakan’s are able to take on a human form, I saw it myself in Rinde, two witchers accounts on a new ability for them.” 

“Garkain and Fleders are bottom feeders,” Geralt said, taking over the conversation, “in the vampire hierarchy of creatures, they’re considered to be dangerous but are unable to change and they’re solitary or prefer their own kind. They also won’t hunt an armed group, especially if they’re a well armed and large guard, Ciri had thirty members of the Impera Brigade with her.”

“So to see the two seperate monsters attack a group is unheard of, as well as attack together.” Emhyr murmured as he looked over the report that Eskel handed him, an old account in one of Geralts books, the books that Takara had given Geralt for his personal library.

“We considered that it could have been an attack over territory, but Ciri’s account doesn’t allow for that.  Her medallion didn’t announce their presence until just minutes before the attack, they weren’t being watched.  The vampires came in fast and from a distance.” Geralt continued, Emhyr noticed that Geralts hand had clenched as he said it.

“We think they might have been protecting something, and they were commanded by the Higher Vampire, the Beast of Beauclair was able to command lesser vampires to him so its a trait that they have.” Eskel said after a pause from Geralt, his rough voice calm but with an edge to it.

Emhyr looked at the two of them, their serious expressions not so much a cause for alarm but enough to make him alert, “what is the recommendation of the witchers?” He asked, placing the book back on the table.

“We would like to discuss this with the Witchers in the City, to get their professional opinion, Eskel is unable to contact Takara at this distance but the Witcher’s here are some of the oldest and the strongest.  We would then suggest that one of the witchers investigate the area, look for clues and to assess the situation,” Geralt said, his back straight and his voice firm.

Emhyr nodded his head decisively, “then see it done gentleman, I would prefer you and Fainrael lead the investigation Eskel, I trust your judgement in this.” 

Both of them nodded and as if there had already been a discussion on their next move, Eskel bowed and then turned to leave.

Emhyr waited till the doors shut behind him and then looked at Geralt, he was surprised he was still here, “you’re not going beloved?”

“No, as Eskel recently reminded me, my place as I have accepted it now, is by your side. And as you need me I will be here with you.”

Emhyr looked at Geralt, humbled at his beloveds words, and then walked around the table to stand beside him, “I’m alright, you can accompany Eskel to the Witcher headquarters.”

Geralt shook his head, firmly and then looked Emhyr in the eyes. “No, I want to be here, Eskel knows what he’s looking for, he knows what to do.  I trust my wolf brother like I trust very few others Emhyr.”

“I know, its why I have decided to trust him as well, he and Fainrael make for a formidable partnership.”

“I noticed.” Geralt said dryly, “they also like to tease the crap out of me,”

“You make it so easy for them though, Ciri is the same, says its easy to rileyou.” Emhyr couldn’t help but tease Geralt, then he went serious, “I am going to see Morvran and then Ciri.  I’ve canceled this evenings entertainments across the palace in light of what happened, the guard has been doubled and the wards have been set at the highest level, do I need to change it?”

“For now? Keep it as you’ve ordered, and then lower it in a day or two.  No need to scare everyone.”

Emhyr nodded his head, “it shall be done, do you wish to escort me to the healers wing?”

Geralt hesitated, “if you don’t mind, I’m going to go to the Palace Library, they have some rare texts that I want to look at.  They might have something in there.” He stepped back, end Emhyr saw the reluctance in his eyes, but also the determination.  There was his protector he thought, the witcher was so bent on keeping his family as safe as he could. 

 As was Emhyr in his own way.

“I don’t mind at all Geralt, I’ll order dinner to be served at seven bells and I’ll ensure that Ciri and Elka attend.”

Geralt smile, “just the girls tonight?”

“Yes, those two vagabonds can entertain us,” Emhyr said depreciatingly and with a wry smile, “they do delight in trouble don’t they.  I don’t think I’ve ever had so many frights in my life than in the last six years.”

Geralt chuckled, “fatherhood, they said its a joy... they lied.”

Emhyr nodded once, he stopped Geralts step back and then said, “at least kiss me before you abandon me to your books and study.”

Geralt just stepped back and before Emhyr had time to think of anything smart to say, Geralt had him in a firm kiss that spoke of determination and desire, Emhyr let Geralt control the kiss, just enough to let his lover think he was in control. And then with a move, turned Geralt and pushed him up against the table.

He deepened the kiss, until it was a melding of heat and tongue, wet and desire. A feasting of the soul.

 He felt more than heard the moan in Geralt and he sighed his pleasure into Geralts own breath.

Then he pulled back, looking into soft amber eyes, “tonight Geralt.”

Geralt gave his own sigh as he straightened up, “tease,” he grumbled.

“Only for you,” purred Emhyr and then straightened his clothes, tisking over the creases that Geralts fist had made into his silk tunic.

 Geralt just gave him a sly smile, when Emhyr looked at him askance and with a shake of his head Emhyr walked towards his office door.  

“Geralt? When I said tonight, I meant that tonight I will tie you up.  I have something I wish to see if you will enjoy.”

He heard Geralt stumble when he got to the door, and with that promise parted, he swept out heading towards the healers wing.

First he would see to Morvran, then he would have the pleasure of the company of the two ladies... one the daughter of his blood the other his heart, both so precious to him. And then... then he would partake in a sensual dance with his beloved, and try to forget the world existed when he was in Geralts arms.

   

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 32.

 

1 week later

 

The news that there had been an attack on the princess while she was away from the city spread through the palace and beyond in record time.  Along with the rumours came the inevitable discussion about the validity of Vampires, most assumed that they either didn’t exist or were nothing more than sewer dwelling monsters up in the north.  The fact that the attack came in what was considered the southern states shocked a lot of the Palace. Not to mention that it was vampires made everyone gasp and titter like it was the shocking and grandest of scandals.  

Except the Witchers, they weren’t surprised, they were however worried.

Geralt and the others were all of the same opinion, there was something hinky about the attack, Eskel had been commanded by Emhyr to go investigate, along with Captain ard’Enthiel, Letho decided he was going to tag along because “I know vamps wolf.”

So did Eskel but for the sake of peace and cooperation Geralt knew that Eskel had gritted his teeth and said ‘Done.’ The three of them had left the next day along with a young mage, one of the Blades.

They hadn’t returned but the daily updates had informed Emhyr of their progress and he had in turn informed Geralt, as progress went they were getting nothing.  

Morvran was on the mend, and it had been touch and go for a few days, he’d had an allergic reaction to something and had gone into a decline that had taken everything that Lanfare had to save him.  

The poor healer was now a patient.

And he made for a very poor one too thought Geralt with amusement as he stood at the door listening to the older Elf growl at his apprentice that he could damn well go to the bathroom by himself.  Lanfare was sitting on the edge of the bed, in a sleep shirt and looked about as pissed off as Geralt had ever seen him, the poor apprentice was having a devil of a time with him Geralt could see.

Time for some payback thought Geralt, “Master Healer, I’m shocked at the behaviour, you know as well as I do that you can barely sit up let alone make it to the toilet.”

Lanfare glared at Geralt, and if looks could kill he would be six foot under, Geralt looked at the apprentice, a 1st year he noticed by the stripe on her shoulder, she stepped away from Lanfare and gave Geralt a little bow.

“Scared off all the apprentices so they’re sending the newbies to you?” He asked mildly to Lanfare, and was rewarded with a much more ferocious glare.

“Go away Geralt.”

“Not a chance, girl, whats your name?”

“Hara sir,” she said timidly.

“Hara, I’ll take his beastly ass to the bathroom, you go about your duties.”  Hara gave him a look he was very familiar with, one he often saw on the faces of those he had saved from a monster. She dashed out the door faster than what could be considered polite leaving Geralt to the growling beast.

“I do not need -“

Geralt just gripped the elf by the wrist, hauled him to his feet, and as Lanfares legs collapsed from under him, Geralt braced him and arched an eyebrow, “You were saying?”

“You’re enjoying this!”

“Can’t say that I’m not amused, you’re worse than I was.”

Lanfare sighed as Geralt got his arm about him and steadied him on his feet,  “Its often said that a healer makes for a terrible patient.”

“You don’t say, I’ve heard terrible rumours about your behaviour in the last two days, thought I’d come and distract you from your confinement.”

“It’s awful, I’ve placed Dorian aep Findal in charge of the infirmary and I’ve asked for all the paper work so that I can at least work while I’m recovering.”

“Let me guess they’re not letting you?”

“No they’re not! I run this department and I’ll be damned if I’m going to be lying on my ass like a useless lump while were busy,” snaped the elf as Geralt manhandled him into the bathroom.  He let Lanfare hike up his own sleep shirt and Geralt helped him sit.

“You can leave me now.”

Geralt gave him an amused look, “I’ll be just outside, if I hear you stand up I’m not going to be as amused by this.”

Lanfare just gave him a grunt and Geralt stepped out to give the man his privacy, but kept his ears open, at the moment if Lanfare was anything like he had been as a convalescent the stubborn elf would get up.

But Lanfare surprised him, “Geralt, I’m done.’ He wanted to make a quip about it being a three person job but one look at Lanfares expression told him he would do better to keep his trap shut.

He got Lanfare back to the bed, the Elf sweating and shaking but settled, Geralt sat down himself on the stool provided.

“You need to lay off the apprentices a bit.” Said Geralt, softly chiding him, 

Lanfare rolled his eyes at him as he wiggled a bit in the pillows to get comfortable, “its good practice for then to deal with an unruly, unforgiving asshole.”

Geralt snorted, that description was accurate at the moment.  “Yeah, but not a monster, that poor girl looked at me as if I was saving her from a fiend, you don’t have to stop being a cranky old bastard but lay off a little.”

“I’m bored, I maybe as weak as a newborn foal right now but my brain is active,”

“How about I supply you with a few never seen before texts from the Library.”

Lanfare perked up, “oh?”

“You healers like Venderveilts work don’t you?”

“Of course, one of the most eminent healer surgeons who ever lived, his books are still studied today.”

“Except the thesis he wrote on the properties of blood transfusions,”

“Blood transfusions? They’re proven not to work, Venderveilt wouldn’t have written anything about a psudomedical procedure.”

Geralt smiled, and Lanfare narrowed his eyes, “the witchers used his methods in gene mutation, his delivery system was paramount to the creation of the witchers. And blood transfusions work, if you understand why they don’t.”

“That doesn’t make sense Geralt.”

“There is a difference in blood, humans carry different types of blood, you give a person the wrong type? there’s your complication.”

Lanfares eyes lit up, and Geralt smile, got him he thought smugly.  He stood up walked to the desk in the room and picked up the thick book he had brought with him, he ran his fingers over the old leather cover, feeling its age and knowing the weight of its contents.

He looked at Lanfare and then handed him the book,“I know Takara was planning on giving you a copy of this so I got Yen to portal me to the Library, this is the only copy I could find and its the original. If you mark it or destroy it I warn you, Takara will figuratively tear you a new one.”

Lanfare winced as he ran his hands over the books, then clutched it to his chest, “she is a tad possessive over her books.”

Geralt blinked at Lanfare and then sat back down on his stool, “Possessive? I’d say vastly territorial about them, anything really to do with knowledge and information. I pinched a book...” he winced at the memory, 

Lanfare was silent for nearly half a second and then asked, “what did she do?”

“Bounced me over the castle under the guise of lessons and then tossed me off the ramparts to be caught by her magic... learned a big lesson that day, she gave me a copy of the book about a week later.  Moral of the story, don’t steal what would willingly be given.”

Lanfare looked at him, slightly horrified, slightly curious, “What was the book about?”

Geralt went red, he could feel his cheeks warm under Lanfares curiosity, “don’t remember,” he muttered, Lanfare blinked a smirk blossoming over his face and then burst into laughter.

“Stick with that story then Geralt,” he said with amusement.

Geralt sighed, bloody Nilfgaardians he thought, knowing that Lanfare had correctly guessed what the book had been about, it had been a book about human reproduction, a medical text because he couldn’t get into the restricted section for the ore explicit ones.

Felling a tad too uncomfortable he decided to change the subject, “So how long are you out for?”

Lanfare sighed, “as a Healer? A good six months, its going to take me at least two weeks to get out of bed which is why I’m so miserable.  I have no regrets, Morvran was so close to death that I really had no choice.  I’m glad I hadn’t given in to his fathers pressure to have him removed to the family mansion in the City.”

“What happened?”

“I should have thrown Antarin out when he insulted you that time, if anything he showed me just how much of an idiot he is. I ordered that Morvran be given a poppy based potion for pain relief. Not the best considering how addictive it can be.  Antarin decided he would give him another type, less effective but less addictive, without my approval.  Unfortunately Antarin didn’t check Morvrans notes, he has an allergy to shellfish.  One guess as to whats in the potion he administered.”

Geralt snorted, “idiot.”

“Lady Voorhis’s screaming made every medic run to find him swelling up like a bladder sack and unable to breathe, I poured so much power to heal him for a severe allergic reaction, power that was already stretched thin from his surgery the other day, that I passed out.  Woke up to unimaginable weakness and a massive lecture from Shani, she’s rather... daunting when she’s angry.”

“No need to tell me,” muttered Geralt, deciding not to tell him stories about the red headed surgeons biting tongue when her temper was up.

“Morvrans safe, Prince Voorhis is enraged at Antarin, but thankful I managed to save Morvran again, and I’m laid up here for the next week at least, and then its a slow methodical recovery for the next six months.”

“You sound as if you’ve done this before.”

Lanfare just looked at him with an arched brow, “I have, in over three hundred years of healing its certainly not the first time I’ve done it.  But you’re right, I should be more aware of what I’m saying and doing to the apprentices, I’ll apologise to Hara”

“Good because that poor girl honestly looked at me as if I were a witcher come to save her from the dreadful monster.”

“A look you know well, and a look that shouldn’t be on her face in these halls,” acknowledge the healer with a contrite look.

He and Lanfare had a chat for a few more minutes but Geralt could see, from the almost reverent stroking on the books spine that all Lanfare wanted was to be left alone.

He stood up, “the way your caressing that book is making me uncomfortable,” he teased, “I’ll leave you to your reading then,”

Lanfare seemed to relax and settle into the bed a bit, “Takara has no complaints when I touch her like the treasure she is,” Geralt flinched with a whimper, he couldn’t help it, and Lanfare laughed, “my thanks Geralt for thinking of me, and for the book.”

After saying goodbye Geralt shot out the door before Lanfare could make another innuendo, he contemplated hunting down Shani but decided against it, if they were a healer down then it would be busy at this time of day.  So with that he contemplated his next move, it was mid afternoon, his schedule free and he was suddenly very aware he had nothing to do.

What a rare and momentous occasion he thought delighted, then muttered under his breath as a thought occurred.

His instincts were still on edge about Ciri and her attack, if he had a spare few hours then there was only one thing a witcher should be doing.  He headed up towards his room, he had a fully functioning armoury and lab up there, and all the reagents he could get his hands on, if he didn’t have it he could order it and it would be there as soon as possible.

Those perks he could get used to.

He ran through the list of ingredients in his rooms, yes he was certain he had more than enough to brew a batch of black blood, he’d check the efficacy of his superior vampire oil and then make a few moondust bombs.

It never hurt to be prepared.

 

————

 

Emhyr stood by the window over looking the City as the rains came down hard.  The storm had blown in 10 minutes ago and it was rather apt that the weather reflected his mood, Eskel, the witcher Letho and Fainrael had just arrived back.

In the five minutes that they had been here Letho had done nothing but shoot daggers at him with his eyes, the rather venomous look was easily ignored, Letho had by no means a monopoly on the look and Emhyr had been on the receiving end of it more times than he cared to remember.  Emhyr had just summoned Geralt and Ciri, he had a feeling that if his daughter was left out of this conversation she would try and geld him, she had declared that the three of them were making mountains out of mole hills.  That the attack was nothing more than an that, an attack by monsters, Geralt hadn’t gotten angry at her just let her rant and then at the end said that it didn’t hurt to investigate.

Judging by the look on Fainraels face, something was bothering him .

A few minutes later Geralt walked in Ciri on his arm, and as his witcher drew closer he saw both Eskel and Letho sniff the air, it was the same move Geralt often did. 

“You expecting an invasion of vampires wolf?” Drawled Letho as he crossed his massive arms.

Geralt stopped at Emhyrs desk and Ciri let go of his arm, stepping around to Emhyrs side.

“My stock was low,” was all Geralt said.

“Bullshit,” scoffed Eskel, “you’re never low on anything, its one of your most anally retentive traits.  You horde your weapons, armour and reagents and you overstock your witcher supplies to the point where you need a pack mule with you but bog down your poor horse instead.” 

Geralt just stared at him nonplussed and Ciri chuckled, Emhyr didn’t smile, although he wanted too, Eskel was right Geralt was a hoarder and Emhyr had already come to grips with the fact he was in love with a magpie.

“Well then gentlemen give me your report.”

“We found nothing sire -”

“See,” said Ciri with smug conviction, “paranoid”

“With all due respect your imperial highness,” said Fainrael with a bow to her, “when I say nothing I mean nothing, no bodies of either vampire of our men, no blood, no campsite, nothing.  The place has been scrubbed clean.  We found no traces of vampires in the vicinity, although there had been reports of girls going missing and some who had anaemia and dying suddenly five years ago, nothing from the last two years.” 

“We think there was a higher or at least intelligent vampire hunting a few years ago, but not now, can’t explain why they would clean up a battle scene though” Letho rumbled as he stirred, “hate it when monsters don’t stick to their usual modus operandi.”

“It sounds like they didn’t want any investigation into the area,” murmured Geralt, frowning as he tried to piece it together, Letho was right about one thing, when monsters deviated from their usual patterns, it made hell for the witcher. 

“That doesn’t make sense,” said Ciri.

“We know,” said Eskel with a sign, uncrossing his arms as he did, “Geralt, I’m advising a thorough sweep of the Library’s resources. Takara’s not here but her catalogue system can direct us.”

Geralt nodded, and then looked at Emhyr, “its our best recourse until Takara gets back.”

Emhyr nodded his head and Geralt almost winced, he knew his lover wasn’t going to like the next bit.

“Eskel and I are the only ones allowed to get through the wards, I’m going to need to go with Eskel, and this is going to take a few days... and nights” he continued and was speared with a frown and narrowed eyes as Emhyr sat down at his desk.

“Balik might be able to pass the wards he’s been to Kaer Morhen enough times,” said Eskel 

“Yeah but doesn’t mean he’s allowed in the Library,” Countered Geralt.

“He did say he and Takara were lovers at one stage, her rooms are below the Library proper.”

Letho snorted, “That Griffin has balls of steel.”

Emhyr was scowling, “regardless of who Takara has taken as a lover, that means you will be away from the Palace for a time.”

“Yes, we need more information and the Library will have any recounts in the records.  Thats a lot of books Emhyr, seven centuries worth in fact, we need every hand we can get down there but its locked up tight, Takara set the wards for only those who have been there before.”

Emhyr scowled, then the scowl changed to a frown, “Correct me if I’m mistaken but Takara’s power is alien to this world, its why magic slides right by her, yes?”

“Yes”

“Then how is she able to use the magic of the wards, and the magic inherent in certain artefacts? they’re not her wards, they’re elven and were placed when the mountain palace was first built.”

Geralt paused, thought about it and then humphed, Emhyr was right, why could she she use the magic f this world when it couldn’t affect her, and she Takara did have a knowledge about certain magics of this world. 

”Thats a good question,” he said and looked at Eskel, who had the same frown he had on his face, “who gets to ask her?”

“The question is moot, I’ll ask her myself when she arrives back from Ofir,” Emhyr said as he waved his hand. “You will take a guard with you Geralt, no arguments, you’re leaving the Empire for an unspecified amount of time, and that’s unheard of .”

Geralt knew he wasn’t getting out of having a guard, he heard the slight sneer of derision from Letho but didn’t say a thing, he nodded his head to Emhyr though.

“Dismissed, Cirilla stay a moment, I have a few issues we need to discuss.”

As they all turned to leave Emhyr said, “Master Letho,”

Letho paused then turned around, his eyes narrowing slightly as he did.  Emhyr still sat at his desk, but he had sat back, his powerful gaze on the viper.

“I will say this only once, what I did, the bargain I failed to uphold... there is no excuse for it. And I make none for my actions, they were not the actions that a ruler should have engaged in.   You were worth more than that.”

Geralt held his breath, that was the closest thing to an apology he had ever heard Emhyr give anyone for anything he had done.  Except family that was.

Letho was silent for a minute then he nodded his head, acknowledging the Emperors words, then left. Eskel followed with Fainrael and Geralt gave Emhyr a nod, he hadn’t expected an apology for Letho... wouldn’t get one even if he wanted one but for Emhyr to acknowledge what he had done? It was more progress in the man than Geralt thought he had ever seen.

As he stepped out he saw that Letho hadn’t  stopped, “he said he’d meet us in head quarter.” Said Eskel as he stood with Fainrael. 

Fainrael nodded his head to Geralt, “witcher, I’ll return to my duties, take care of Eskel for me while you’re away.”

“Depends on the type of taking care of,” Geralt teased, “ill let you do the tying up part but I can get him drunk of his gourd for you.”

Eskel growled, “not funny wolf.” 

Geralt knew from certain things that Eskel had let slip that his carriage ride and subsequent night at the ard’Enthiel estate, after a certain night on the town, hadn’t ended with him tied to a bed post like Geralt had.

Fainrael hadn’t been impressed hauling a drunken witcher home, and was very very inventive in his retaliation.

Fainrael just smiled, benignly and Geralt narrowed his eyes, so did Eskel, “I’ll be on my way you two and Eskel, love, do behave.”

As Eskels enigmatic half-elven lover sauntered down the hall, Geralt looked at his best friend and brother, “something tells me he’s worse than Emhyr.”

“I swear they take notes and try to out do each other on us.  I’m still getting over the time he gave Fainrael Seibet to use on me after I dosed you with it.”

Geralt just grinned, the memory of the day after had been hilarious, he’d tracked Eskel down by the simple expedience of kicking open his bedroom door, no mean feat considering the weight of the door and his strength at the time.  To find Eskel still laid out, it was then that Geralt knew for a fact that Fainrael was the one calling the shots when it came to bed, not Eskel.  

He’d ribbed the guy mercilessly, then hauled his ass up and into the bath, got him some food and then they both went to the Chameleon to get rip roaring drunk and commiserate over their lovers propensity to take charge.

“We’ll leave tomorrow, I’m going to go and keep brewing up some potions and craft some bombs.”

“I’ll get the others on it and ask Balik if he’s able to come,” Eskel replied, “meet you here after breakfast.”

Geralt nodded and the two departed, Geralt to his rooms to continue his prep work and Eskel to the witcher headquarters.

 

Geralt stretched and stood up, he’d infused his entire stock of ingredients into making nearly a barrel full of superior vampire oil.  He was probably being paranoid... okay he was being paranoid he conceded to himself but he wasn’t one to ignore his instincts.  They weren’t always right, but they were more often than not correct.

Emhyr had appeared briefly to remind Geralt that there was a Garden Gala tonight, Geralt aware that he would ruin the batch if he left it had asked to be excused.  It wasn’t often he didn’t attend and Emhyr had nodded his head, gave Geralt a scorching kiss and a whispered promise of what was to come that night and then left to get ready.

The promise had been heated enough that Geralt had seriously considered ditching the oil and brew and riling up Emhyr in his bath, but he knew Emhyr wouldn’t cave, the man liked the savour the anticipation.

By now the Gala would be going strong, Mererid had brought him in enough food to feed a family of twelve and Geralt ate while he gathered his reagents for Moondust.  

He hummed a tune as he did, happy to be doing something that didn’t make him feel like he was so far out of his element he might as well be sitting on the moon when his senses screamed at him.

He immediately became alert, dropping everything and turning around, staring at the room , open spaces, not much furniture, he had a silver sword from one of the ones mounted on his walls in his hand before carefully doing another sweep of the room.

Something was here he thought, gripping his medallion and feeling no hum, he grabbed one of the vials of oil he had just prepared and smashed it over his sword, just as red mist entered through the open balcony window.

He had a moondust bomb in his hand and glanced at the still simmering black blood, damn he thought knowing his potions case would take a few seconds to locate, but his worry about a coming fight was for nought as the mist, so reminiscent of blood, formed into a vampire he knew very well.

Except he looked younger, a lot younger than he had seen him two years ago.

“Regis?” He asked, completely gobsmacked at the younger and very handsome being that was standing in front of him, dressed as usual as a surgeon barber, his shoulder length hair full and slightly wavy and black as the night.

“Geralt there isn’t time, get yourself armoured and ready for a fight.”

Geralt stiffened, “what’s going on?” He barked, and not even questioning the order to prepare, put his blade down and grabbed his potions case, searching for his black blood.

“Your Ciri, the unseen Elder knows her blood will open the portal to the home world of the Vampires, he knows Geralt, and has ordered her immediate capture, or death... whatever is easier.”

The words took Geralts breath away and he stared at Regis in horror, “what?”

“Move Geralt, we haven’t the time, three higher vampires are coming for her now.”

  

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 34

 

The now galvanised Geralt into moving, in his hands the black blood, a blizzard and a few moondust bombs as he ran into the other room. Armour he thought, choosing one set that would help him move and still protect him, the grandmaster viper was his best bet.

As he started the process of buckling into his armour, he peppered Regis with questions.

“How long until they’re here?”

“I’m about fifteen minutes ahead of them, if we’re lucky” Said Regis as he stepped behind Geralt, his dexterous fingers working the buckles on his shoulder pauldrons so that Geralt could concentrate on his waist belt and his leather pants.

“Just the three higher vampire? Any lesser?”

“Not that I’m aware, they tried that a week ago and were repelled, but the one leading them is capable of calling in fleders.”

Geralt had known the attack wasn’t normal, had known it, and this still caught him unprepared.  Gods he thought, what to do?

“Mererid,” he yelled.

He was just clipping his bandolier on, potions, bombs and oil in place and shoving his hands into his gauntlets when Mererid appeard, his usually dour expression morphing to one of alarm when he saw Geralt, and the man with him.

“Sir G-“

“I need the alarm for an imminent attack on the Imperial family sounded, alert everyone that they’re in danger.”

Mererid just blinked at him and then ran, Geralt went to run after him when Regis made a sound, “Close,” he hissed, “not enough time.”

He was then quiet unceremoniously pulled towards the balcony doors and as Geralt went to snap at Regis he paused, eyes widening.

Regis was changing into the being he had seen at Dunn Tyne and as they stepped onto the balcony, into a creature he had seen only once before in Stygga, Regis chittered at him and then with a mighty flex of his wings, took to the air and then grabbed Geralt by the shoulders, with his claws.

As the alarm for arms went up through the palace, a gods awful noise that alerted every person in the complex of an imminent attack on the Emperor, it was pierced by the curses of a witcher dangling in the clasp of a giant flying bat-like creature.

 Geralt didn’t like to fly, he’d been carried off by creatures before, hell there had even been a dragonback ride once in his life but dangling over buildings in the jerking hold of Regis’s claws was something he never wanted to do again.

Regis carried him over the buildings and towards the palace Imperial Gardens, Geralt could see the Impera Brigade pouring out of the Palace, and the sound of running booted feet were as loud as the siren that called them to arms.

Regis came in fast and low, scaring the gathered nobles half to death as they almost as one screamed and darted out of the path of something they had never seen before.

Regis let Geralt go near to where Emhyr and Ciri were surrounded by the Guard, Geralt landed on his feet and turned about to see Regis back wing and land, taking his human like form.

“I cannot stay, if they see me... I cannot stay.”

“Understood, and Regis... Thank you.”

Regis nodded, ”You would do the same for me my friend.”

With that Regis formed into red mist and disappeared from view, as Geralt turned back to tell Emhyr what was going on he saw Yen standing with several mages, “Yen, I need the witchers here now.”

“Who?”

“All of them, tell them three higher vampires and to deploy the new tactics we discussed.”

She nodded her head, not even waiting for Emhyr to okay Geralts order, not that he wouldn’t considering, and took off running towards the mages wing, with the wards up, she couldn’t portal from the garden.  Back up on its way he thought as he unclipped the black blood.

He looked at Emhyr, whose face was set in terrible lines of anger, “You trust Regis?”

“With my life, Ciri is in danger.”

“Guess you’re not paranoid,” she tried to joke but the words fell flat under the enormity of the situation.

Emhyr ordered the immediate evacuation of the gathered Nobles, ordering them to return to their homes, as they left, most still muttering about the absurdity of it all, Geralts neck began to itch and from the sky, red mist trailed fast into the Gardens, several streams of it.

He breathed out, letting his senses go and then knocked back the potion in his hand, letting the vial drop to the ground. 

The world swam for just a second as his blood burned and turned to acid, his world focusing onto the three vampires forming from the red mist.  He felt the mages behind him throw shields around the Emperor and Ciri, the two of them being escorted back to the Palace as the danger became very real.

Three higher vampires he thought calmly as he drew his oiled silver blade, the best of the swords he had at his disposal. He assessed the three of them and without thinking much of it took the blizzard, he needed every bit of an edge that he could get, even if it pushed him towards a toxicity induced seizure.

As the potion settled into his veins he flexed his wrist and the amber runes of a runewright flared into life as he spun the blade around to limber up his wrist. He just had to hang on until the others came.

Two vampires looked young, mid twenties, sharp eyes and cruel, these were not like Regis, or Dettlaff, these three were killers, two men and a woman... or more accurate to say two males and a female. 

The woman stepped forward, stretching her arms above her head in a stretch and then waving an elegant sharp taloned hand over her face as if she had smelled something bad, “Ohh the stench of humanity, how utterly foul.” She sounded sweet, her voice pretty, a sirens call and one that would bring your death. But she stepped forward and Geralt had to order the Brigade to retreat, they were nothing more than fodder, but his words brought their attention directly to him.

“Oh look Avaniel, its one of those monster slayers, the ones that taste like swamp water,” the female looked intrigued as she stared at him, “does he think he can take us on?”

Geralt kept silent, not bothering to engage with them, let them speak he thought, they would be more inclined to gossip.

“One wonders at the arrogance of humans,” the taller of the males said as he stepped up to the female, he was handsome, black haired and red eyed, as cold as the blonde haired female.

“Well creature,” he lengthened his claws, “killing you will be quick and we can hunt our prey down.”

“Make it quick Avaniel,” said the older male, “I want to be away from here as soon as possible.”

“Oh, carve it to little pieces dearest, it’s not much good for anything else.”

The vampire laughed, and came at Geralt fast, he threw the moondust bomb in its face and dove to the side, coming back up around as an ear piercing shriek came from the creature.  Silver, he thought, that had to hurt, particularly if he had breathed it in which it sounded like he had.

He spun about bringing his sword up and slicing though with the strength of his caste, his blade slicing through skin and bone, and neatly decapitated the vampire.

He kicked the head away from him, launching it across the garden and saw Fainrael grab it, catching it as if it were a ball in a game of kick.  The captain of Emhyrs Guard took off, Geralt still in that calm poise of a battle mind, thought that Eskel must have told his lover the tactics that the witchers had sat round and discussed.

As a rule, Witcher’s didn’t fight higher vampires so their collective knowledge about the creatures was pretty much summed up in less than five pages, so they had gathered before Eskel had left and brainstormed possible tactics.

Silver dust to the face was one of them, dismembering and separating the parts was another.

The body staggered about and collapsed to its knees, still trying to move and if that wasn’t unsettling and unnerving than he didn’t know what was.

He was going to have to hack it to pieces, as he brought his blade up to do just that, his senses screamed at him, and he ducked and weaved, missing the long raking claws of the female as she came at him, her blood red eyes glowing murder.

She screamed and the power in her voice staggered him back a bit, as he stepped into the stagger to regain his balance, then went at her.  Spark flew as she swiped and connected with his sword, and just like Takara, she used her claws.

He had never been more thankful for the workout he got with Takara than he was right now, she was fast, really fast but he found he was able to keep up with her.  Their fight went on, and they moved back and forth across the garden, through hedges and bushes, over tables and chairs.  She threw several at him, each deflected by a quen.  When they had reached the center of the garden he saw four bombs come in from several directions, knowing back up had finally arrived he threw another quen about himself, going to one knee to keep it tight.

The bombs went off rocking the ground around him and he surged up, sword coming out to pierce the female in the chest, she was already falling though, the improved grapeshot and combined moondust bomb that Letho had suggested had done severe damage to her. 

A shrill squeal came from her pretty red lips as she gaped at the silver sword in her body, then Geralt withdrew it and took off her head.

Varen came in and swung down hacking at the males body as it tried to regain its feet, “fucking creepy bastard, they’re like headless chickens.”

“At least its not running and bouncing off walls,” Geralt rasped back as he continued to hack the female to pieces.

Within minutes the two creatures were nothing more than diced and sliced, and Haden brought out silver cloth, “thats two, the sorceress said they’re three,” the Bear said calmly as Carnin and Pietrev knelt down gathering the bits into the silver cloth.

“The other one must have gone after Ciri,” Geralt turned to run Varen at his heels.

“Eskel, Letho, Balik and Khalid were going for the Imperial family, the others are scattering through the palace to see if anything else came with them.” Varen reported as he kept up with Geralt, “the Sorceress ordered us into sets of four then took off, where’s the Emperor?”

“The Bunker.” 

There was only one place in the Palace so completely well defended as the Bunker, one way in, two ways out.  The first was the entrance the second was an elven portal to a safe location, and was where the Imperial Family was taken to in the event of an attack.

“We’re not going to get the element of surprise on them again,” Varen warned as Geralt ran though halls and doors, down several staircases into the bowels of the Palace, heading towards the Imperial Bunker, and the oldest part of the Palace itself.

Geralt grunted, knowing that the only reason he was able to take two of the vampires out was because they severely underestimated him, their arrogance towards others not of their race was a weakness that they could exploit. But Varen was right, that element of surprise was now gone.

They passed Guard after Guard, all armed and ready to lay down their lives, it made Geralt both please to see that his daughter would have that protection but also furious that it was needed.

The came skidding into a large well maintained area, with soaring columns and dozens of men armed with silver pikes and spears and ready for a fight.  At the front were Letho, Balik, Khalid and Eskel, Fainrael and Yennefer with them.

“Report,” snapped Geralt as he came abreast of them.

“We have the Emperor and Ciri in the Bunker along with several of the high ranking nobles who were in the party and demanded to be protected.” Yennefer said curtly her amethyst eyes glaring her anger, but it wasn’t directed at him. 

Geralt nodded curtly, “Two Vampires were taken out, ones on the loose.”

“We have several reports of lesser vampires in the palace, we’ve sent a team of witchers to take them out,” Fainrael replied to him, when he looked at the captain..

“And the creatures head?” 

“Shoved it into a silver vase and then compressed the neck so nothing gets out” he pointed and Geralt looked to see a squashed silver vase near the door to the Bunker. 

Effective he thought.

He looked at Eskel, “I know its a long shot considering the distance but have you tried Takara.”

“Yeah, more times than I should but the distance is double from here to Kaer Morhen.”

He shook his head, damn it all he thought. 

“You’re ordered to attend the Emperor as soon as possible,” said Yennefer, his attention swung to her, “I’ll inform the mages to open the door.”  Yen looked at him, “Geralt, what is gong on?”

“All I know is that some higher vampire wants her, its the wild hunt all over again Yen.”  He saw the understanding in her, the knowledge of what the hunt wanted from Ciri and the sadness in her eyes, and the burning rage of a mothers protective instincts. 

“No, not on my watch.” As promises went Yennefer had the power to back it up, Geralt nodded his head at her, it was a promise that he joined her in.

Their love for their adopted daughter would always bind them together, and it was a cleaner binding then the wish he had made, and a much more healthy one as well.

A loud clanging noise and a series of thuds as the bolted meteorite steel and silver door unlocked echoed in the chamber... Geralt hurried over to it, slipping in as it opened and then closed behind him.

He hadn’t been inside the bunker, had been shown it as part of his tour but not the inside, trust Nilfgaard to value luxury he though as he stepped into the carpeted and well appointed room.  A room inlaid with runes and spells, wards and shields. He blinked to turn off his visual mutation, he’d been unaware he’d activated it in battle.  It told him how used to using it he was now that it had become a subconscious action.

There were a good two dozen nobles in the bunker with Emhyr who was sitting with Ciri at the back of the room closest to the still dormant portal. As he went to go to him Prince Voorhis immediately stepped in front of him.

“You, witcher, what is the meaning of this...attack.”

Geralt, his appearance already changed because of the black blood and blizzard in his system just stared at Voorhis. His unsettling look, the yellow shine and the cat like slits were made even more alarming by the blackening of his eyes and the deep red veins in pale visage.

He had never looked more inhuman than he did right now and he could see how frazzled it made the prince, he could smell the nervous anxiety coming off the man.

“Unless you’ve successfully deposed the Emperor in the last thirty minutes, I don’t answer to you and even then I still wouldn’t answer,” he all but hissed, “now move aside.”

His words and his looks as he was dancing so close to toxicity from the two potions, were enough to unnerve the man and he stepped away from Geralt, giving ground.

Geralt prowled across the thick carpet his sword still held in his hand and not sheathed, Emhyr looked at him, “Are we secure?”

“Not yet, but we will be.”

“Did Regis give you any reason why this attack occurred?”

Geralt looked at Ciri and saw the burn of frustration and unease in her beautiful green eyes, “something called the unseen Elder has found out your blood will open the portal to the vampire homeworld, he’s called for our immediate capture or death.”

She gave a dazed snort, a sound that conveyed shock and defeat, “just like Eredin,” she sighed, “gods... I thought this fight had ended.”

“He won’t get you.” Emhyr swore, his dark eyes blacking in his anger, 

She looked at her father, and opened her mouth to say something but judging by her face, it probably wasn’t what Emhyr wanted to hear. But Ciri had learned discretion in the last few years because she looked about her and shook her head, “Later,” she muttered.

Geralts attention was suddenly on the mages, as they seemed to hype up, several of them looking up and around, focusing on something in the ceiling.  He followed where one of the was looking.

An air vent.

Ahhh fuck he thought, he blinked enhancing his vision further and realised the air vents, as small as they were were unguarded, “shield the air vents,” he snapped out, “I want a full visual on them at all times.”

“Sir.” Said one of the mages.

Gods that was close though Geralt as he prowled up to one of them, examining the small set of holes drilled into the plaster and rock.

“Lady Yennefer suggested it sire,” he heard a mage murmur to Emhyrs spoken question, Geralt broke away form the wall and started to pace, he had an off feeling, something he couldn’t quite put his finger on.

He felt caged, not a feeling he was used too, he had been in worse situations, tighter caves and even tighter walls battling monsters and humans so he shouldn’t feel so unsettled.

But something was amiss he thought.

As he paced through the Bunker, he disregarded the looks he was getting from the nobles, but tried to wrack his brain.

He stoped and corrected his stance, and it suddenly hit him like a harpy.  This was the lowest level of the Palace, the room out side had several drains set within the floor, the ground here was uneven. 

Drains he thought, how many were there?”

He sliced out, cutting through the plush wall to wall carpet, because gods forbid the nobles got their feet a little cold, and saw the iron covered drain. 

His actions galvanised the Brigade in the room and they immediately started searching for more, but it was already too late.

Red mist shot out near to Ciri, through the carpet, and Ciri reacted by shielding herself and her father, a deadly look in her eyes.

As he ignored the shrieks coming from the nobles, or some of them he had to admit, the others had armed themselves with the weapons on the wall.

This was a room designed for a last stand if necessary to give the Emperor time to escape, and it was armed to the teeth, Emhyr grabbed two swords, handing one to Ciri and limbering up his wrist as he stood side by side with his daughter.

The older vampire from the garden formed in front of Ciri’s shields, sliding his claws over it, testing it.

“I see your shields will be... problematic, never mind, I can keep a human docile enough to keep you controlled.” He smiled at her, flashing his fangs and sharper set teeth at her.

Ciri bared her own, “I’m too rich a vintage for you.”

The black haired vampire just laughed, “oh you will amuse me girl, this will be fun.”

Geralt stalked him, quite as he came up behind the vampire, “I know you’re behind me witcher, your kind and those blasted sorceresses are incapable of anything but poor manners.”

It was an odd thing to say but all Geralt focused on was the word sorceress, it couldn’t be he thought.

The vampire turned, the man was older, distinguished and as viciously handsome as no being had a right to be.  The other two had looked younger, acted younger and he had a feeling he was looking at a vampire that was old, really old.

He raked his red eyes over Geralt, smiled a shark toothed smile and purred, “school of the wolf, my little Lamb came from that school, I do regret selling him... tell me witcher will you beg and whimper as prettily as he did when you are forced to serve every need?”

Geralt tightened his grip on his sword, the only outward sign that inside his temper had sparked, 

Lamb, Lambert, it had to be... sorry prick, he thought, I’m going to carve this one up and gift him to you in pieces. 

His not responding made the vampire frown, so the arrogant bloodsucker didn’t like being ignored, it tisked, “is it so hard for you humans to exhibit the very least amount of manners.”

It seemed a rhetorical question, at least Geralt was going to treat it like one and not answer, he side stepped, bringing his blade up.

The vampire sighed, “well if your death is what it takes then so be it, you can embrace death and say hello for me.”

Geralt rolled his eyes, “do you have to yatter away? Gods, carving you up is going to be a pleasure if for no other reason to shut you up, if I knew where your unseen elder is, I’d send you back to him in pieces”

It was a calculated risk, and it worked, he shocked it, “how do-“ the vampire stopped, his mouth tightening and he lengthened his claws.

“How did I know there was an imminent attack on the palace? How did I know that you’re here for the princess by the unseen elders order.”

The vampires eyes widened with each word.

“Witchers have always studied, have always watched. You can’t hide much from us.”

He was sowing doubt into the vampires mind, letting him second guess himself, and Geralt.  The vampire wasn’t sure now.

He heard muffled yells from beyond the door, where the others were standing guard, but a feeling in the air had come and he knew it as if he knew how to breathe.

Blue flame burst through into the room, a fireball of fury and fire, it half melted the metal door off its hinges as it came to a standstill and grew into a towering pillar. 

That blew upwards depositing Takara and Lambert.

“Got hold of Takara,” Eskel yelled from outside the bunker, as the Guard started ushering the Nobles back out through the meld door..

“No shit,” Geralt yelled back sarcastically.

But Lambert, Lambert took one look at the vampire in front of Geralt, his eyes widened, his face a deathly mask of fury and fear.  

“You,” he choked out, reaching up for a sword that wasn’t there, he was dressed to the nines in something Ofiri, and patently not armed.

“My little Lamb, what a pleasant surprise,” the vampire purred, “unexpected to be sure but pleasant all the same.”

What wasn’t pleasant was the snarl that tore from Takara’s lips, her tails, which had been settled more like a fur cape broke apart and her ears popped up from her head.

“He is not your Lamb,” she snarled, the viciousness in it wasn’t something that Geralt had ever heard from her before but it was enough for him to dive sideways, throw an ard at the portal stone  and order Ciri and Emhyr through it.

Takara and that vampire were squaring off and he for one didn’t want to be caught in between the two of them.

“You foul thing, I’ll kill you for the murder of Elder Vandrien,” was the last thing Geralt heard as he leapt in the portal after Ciri.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 35

 

As Palace receptions went this one was as deeply traditional as the Ofiri could make it, thought Takara as she sat on the divan surrounded by mages and nobles, all keen to be seen with the Shuelat almawt alzarqa’.

It had been decades since she had been here, the Palace hadn’t changed, the structure of the gala event was the same... only the people had.  

Except for Nihara and a handful of mages.

She had completed her task for Nihara three days before hand, and had arrived back in the city of Ashkhenab that morning, the Za’aali had agreed to go home if Takara killed the blood stealers in their caves and hunting their villages.

Their territory was large and riddled with caves and caverns, it had taken her almost three weeks to root out every lesser vampire, several varieties of the damn things burrowed so she had had to be careful and thorough.  Why there had been a sudden invasion of lesser vampires in the Za’aali’s lands she didn’t know but if she had more time she would have investigated. Yet as it was she had two witchers and a kit to return too.

The Zal’aali had been grateful for her help and had gathered to leave the Malliqs lands where they had taken refuge, it had also been a learning opportunity for Nihara, and a trade of knowledge as well.  Nihara had been surprised that the Za’aali’s Sharmans were capable of magic and the old female had taught Nihara a trick or two.  Nihara had returned the favour and was politely told to return to learn more.

One thing she hoped came from this was that the mages and sorcerer’s of the Ofir would come to study and learn that the Za’aali, while a primitive tribal culture, had a lot to offer.  

She declined the 9th glass of grape juice offered to her and Haru shifted on her lap, her kit was in trouble.  Lots of it.

While she had been dealing with the Za’aali Lambert and Emilé had offered to look after Haru while she was away from the Palace, they had taken turns at doing so and it would be safe to say her kit had kept the two witchers on their toes.  

Not to mention that he had been spoiled within an inch of his life by the Malliqs daughters and his concubines.

Emilé and Lambert had been asked to handle a local monster hunt, usually done by the men at arms and the mages but this had been a rather dangerous Penitent and had killed several men and a mage.  They had deemed it urgent enough that they had departed the next day and conscious of the fact that Haru was in their charge had brought him along with them.

Her kit had decided they had needed his help, with no training and no knowledge of the creature he faced.

Consequently Emilé who had had to intervene before a boulder had crushed the boy was now sporting an arm broken in six places and four broken ribs.

Haru was in so much trouble, he hadn’t left Emilés side since it had happened six days ago, he knew it was his fault, felt guilt for his actions. But tonight however, after the lecture he had received from her, he had taken his kitsune form and had stuck to her like glue, he needed the comfort of her presence and while she was angry and disappointed in him she would not withhold her love from him.  

That was not her way.

His punishment would start when they got back to Nilfgaard, her kit was not going to be happy for a long while.  She was going to apprentice him to the outdoor servants, with the demand that Haru be given the worst possible jobs. Like working the bellows, cleaning out the fire pits, maintaining the workspace, mucking out the stables, shovelling fertiliser in the gardens, cleaning out the cesspit. 

All valuable lessons in life and hot, heavy and hard work.

It was that or she was going to take him back to Kaer Morhen for the winter, he could assist with the rebuilding of the keep.

He would learn there were consequences to his actions, he chose to ignore her rule of listening to the witchers, consequently Emilé was now greatly injured.  Haru would bear the consequence of that decision in the form of hard labour. 

They were set to leave on the morrow, even with everyone begging her to stay longer, she wanted to get Emilé back to the Palace and under Lanfares healing guidance. While the Malliqs healers were very good, had ensured the bones were set and they were healing, the master Elven Healer was the best in the world. 

She would feel better if Lanfare could look at Emilé.

She looked over at her wolven kit, the last three weeks had been good for him, he and Emilé had talked, had started a friendship, as Balik had known they would. He wasn’t by any means cured, but he was feeling calmer.

And he had taken up knitting, one of the servant lasses teaching him the technique.  

She hadn’t said a word when she had come upon him knitting while watching over Emilé, but she had been tempted too.  For as much as he had been angry at Vesemir for taking him away from his mother, over time he had grown to respect the old witcher for his knowledge.  

Lambert still had the last jumper Vesemir had knitted him ten years ago.

He was currently enjoying the attentions of several veiled young women, and was regaling them with stories about his Path as a witcher. And he was enjoying the attention she thought with a slight smile.

The Malliq, sitting on his plush and pillowed Divan, a concubine at his feet, caught her eye and gestured her over.  She murmured her excuses to those gathered with her, shifted Haru onto her shoulder and anchoring him there with a tail, stood up and walked over to the ruler of the Ofiri.

The Malliq was a tall muscular man, older than Emhyr, distinguished looking with grey hair and eyes, and a full silver beard. He was dressed in a dark red and grey kaftan with gold embroidery over an inner robe and a narrow white salvar, with a jewelled turban upon his head. She nodded her head to him as she approached. 

“My dearest Shuelat almawt alzarqa’, would you not consider staying longer?”

“I’m afraid Malliq that we really cannot.”

“Does Nilfgaard have more to offer?” his grey eyes were hard, cold even. 

“Its not so much as what the Empire has to offer as to what has been given me.” She answered cryptically, “as such I and those who have accompanied me return on the morning.”

She ignored the look of frustration in the rulers eyes, he wanted her here and she was not going to stay in a land so... different to what she craved.  She needed forests of wood and water, pine and mountains, the closest she could come to Nihvon.

This land of sand and dunes, dry heat and little water was stifling and while it was by no means barren, for life flourished in the most unexpected of places it was too alien for her to find peace.

“Then I ask that you do allow me to host you for an extended visit soon.”

“We shall see Malliq, I have duties in my territory that I must see to first, but I do so enjoy traveling.”

“That is good to hear, please enjoy the party.” with a wave of his hand to dismiss her, she bowed her head once more and left him to his fawning wives.

As she walked she felt, unsettled, something wasn’t right, she had felt like this a week ago but the feeling had only lasted for ten minutes and she had been deep within the earth hunting down an Alp, so she had passed the feeling off as a result of the situation.

Now she was feeling it again, and had been for a little while she thought, the feeling was intensifying. 

She walked over to Lambert and his ladies, he immediately broke off from his conversation with them to smile at her, she smiled back, such a handsome wolf she thought, even if he was often sullen.  He too was dressed as the Malliq and many of the men in this part of the word were, purely because the Ladies of the Court had cooed and ahhhed over him and he was given the clothes.  He was polite enough to wear them even if he thought the purple and the red were too much, not to mention the gold embroidery. 

“Greetings child,” she said to him.

“Takara,” he said with a murmur and then reached up and gently stroked Haru’s ears, “hello there kit.”

Haru meeped a response to him and then settled back down, and the unsettled feeling intensified... she hesitated, and then reached her power out, the distance was too far to reach Eskel but she felt the need to check.

She actually felt him at the very edges of her limit, and he must have been at the very edges of his, and while she couldn’t hear words she could sense emotions.

He was projecting anger, determination and a sense she only got from the few witchers whose power enabled her to connect to with a crystal when their swords were drawn.

But one image came across, vampires and Ciri.

Vampires again she thought, and they were after Ciri?

She looked at Lambert, “we’re leaving.”

Her voice had turned commanding and Lamberts eyes widened, she shrugged her shoulder, Haru jumped down and she looked at him, “Go to Emilé and guard him Haru, that is your task.”

Her kit immediately nodded his head and was off like a spellshot.

“What’s going on?”

“I believe theres a vampire attack on the Palace, Ciri is their target,” Lamberts eyes went icy cold as she reached out for him, she looked over at Nihara, “we will return,” was all she said as she ignored the people around her and called her power to her.

The Ofiri called her the Blue Flame of Death. The Shuelat almawt alzarqa’, or alternatively the Lady of Blood and Beauty, many of them had heard the stories of how she had descended from the sky in a flaming blaze of blue fire to protect the former Malliq. They now knew the story was real.

Blue flame burst into existence around her as she prepared to take her and Lambert to the Palace in Nilfgaard.

The yells and cries of either delight or fear were left behind and within minutes they had reached the Palace, it was in an uproar.  She could sense the corpses of about eleven fleders, and even more of the Palace Guard and servants, she could sense the seething hatred of two higher vampires caught within silver and unable to heal.

And one more, below them, in the same room as Emhyr, Ciri and Geralt, she took her and Lambert down, zipping through the palace as a furious storm of blue fire, ordering Eskel to make way as they descended the stairs at a monumentally fast rate.

She ignored the death she sensed about her, and within seconds of arriving in the palace, struck the metal door of a room designed for safety and melted it as she came through.

“Got hold of Takara,” yelled Eskel as she brought herself and Lambert back into being and into the room.

“No shit,” snapped Geralt back as she looked at the scene before her, Ciri was protected by her power, as was Emhyr, they were safe.

And Geralt, ever ready to run headlong into danger for the ones he loved was ready to engage the vampire. His sword drawn, oiled and he was skirting the edge of a toxicity induced seizure.

But the Vampire, of the higher variety, had taken one look at her child of Sorrow and Learning and said, “My little Lamb, what a pleasant surprise,”

The sudden stench of rage and fear had flooded her nose as Lambert choked out ‘you’.

And she knew.

This was the reason Lambert had learned to fear.

This was the reason her kit had terrors and horrors that haunted his mind and sleep.

This was the Vampire that had brutalised her kit.

“He is not your Lamb,” she snarled, the vicious rage a throb and curse through the air and Geralt, who had the unfortunate position of being piggy in the middle to a vampire and a pissed off kitsune, moved out of the way.  And did the only sensible thing he could, he gave her the room she needed to fight and took away the vampires targets by the simple expedience of opening the elven portal and ordering them through.

She lengthened her claws, felt her fangs descend and ripped her power out and around in little tongues of fire, one little ball danced over her fingers. She brought her tails up letting her power dance over them, and she saw the knowledge of who or rather what she was in the vampires eyes.

“You foul thing,” it cursed, “I’ll kill you for the murder of Elder Vandrien.”

She let herself smile, a cold smile, full of the arctic rage that she felt, “your elder didn’t survive me, what makes you think you will?”

It hissed at her and it was Lambert who broke it, “he’s mine Takara, he broke me, I n-“

She knew he couldn’t and as she took her eyes off the vampire to look at her kit, she saw that he knew it too.

“Make it hurt,” he hissed at her, “I mean it Takara, make him scream like he made me -”

She reached out her long claws and oh so very gently touched his cheek, “I’ll make him beg for what he did to you my child,” she all but crooned. 

And as Lambert backed away she looked back at the Vampire, “it is customary among my race that when we engage in a battle to the death to at exchange names, I am Takara Meiyo Hanei Ayakashi, Leader of the Ayakashi Clan, the Kitsune Empress of the Southern Lands of Nihvon.”

The male sneered at her, “you fought Elder Vandrien like this? introduced yourself and then killed her?”

“Yes actually, she was killing people, had slaughtered several villages in the lands far far west of here, in the Elven Empire of Haren’Entheas. I was visiting an old friend there and was asked to help, I tracked her down satiated on the blood of children, she had just killed a family of five.”

“Bitch, she was an elder of my race, the leader of the Ammuran tribe.”

“I am aware of who and what she was, she gloated about the blood she had shed, had said it was necessary as she had been called to mate and bare a child... blood and death were needed for a strong child.”

He pursed his lips, and his eyes glowed, she could see that he was gearing up his power for a fight, “I’ll bring your head back to the Unseen Elder and tell him that his one time mate was avenged.”

“Your manner need improving, I have yet to know who I’m addressing.”

“Emmerich von de‘Siegre,” yelled Lambert from outside the room, his voice trembling.

“Thank you Lambert,” she said gently. 

“My little Lamb, I will see that you cry so pretty for that, and you creature, I’ll  revel in the blood you shed and the screams of pain you utter.” He purred at her with a vicious smile, his fangs displayed...and then turned to blooded mist.

She sighed, how predictable she thought and as he materialised right next to her, she used her speed to disappear, it shocked him and he barely got his incredibly long claws up in time to defend himself as she came in fast and low.

But she did manage to graze him across the thigh, “first bloods mine Emmerich,” she crooned at him and then laughed at the rage in his eyes.

The fight then began in earnest, she tore at him with claw and with fire, he in turn raked at her to cut through flesh and muscle, but she had learned, her last and only fight with a higher vampire that winter had taught her that those claws could slice so easily through bone. 

She wouldn’t allow it this time, she had lost her arm while fighting Vandrien, had underestimated the elder vampire. As consequence for her pride her arm was still healing but she found it easier to fight with it, it wasn’t as sluggish as before and the pain on movement wasn’t as sharp.

But as she fought Emmerich she knew that this vampire was nowhere near the strength of Vandrien, he didn’t heal fast enough, he didn’t move as quickly, and as she snapped his claws of at the base of his finger, he screamed in pain.

Vandrien had never screamed, she had fought and laughed, taunted and cursed, but pain hadn’t fazed her.

In a particular savage move, she thrust his arms away from him, the slow re-lengthening claws no danger to her at the moment and pushed him up against a stone column with enough force that the column broke, and she crushed his chest and spine.

That would take a little while to heal she thought as she threw him once more, across the room.

She stalked him, as blood gurgled up through his lips and he tried to cough but couldn’t, her power danced around her, made her hair move in a wind that wasn’t there, made her clan markings appear and glow as she prowled and paced before her prone target. 

She wasn’t ready to end the fight.

He hadn’t suffered near enough, and for the first time in so very many millennium she let the savage and uncivilised side of her nature come to the fore.  She would become Emmerich’s executioner, and she make him pay the price for all he had done to her child of Sorrow and Learning, and any other who had screamed at his touch. 

She would bear the cost of his death, because a death as vicious as the one she planned would carry its own weight.

When Emmerich cursed her, insulted her she broke his leg, sliced through tendon and ligament and then torn his leg of at his knee, then with her power at the wound stopped him from healing it. 

She had done it again.

As he had cried out and screamed at the realisation that she would rend him limb from limb she had stripped his thigh of muscle and sinew and continued... and when he had finally begged, begged as prettily as he made others do she had taken his head.

But he wasn’t dead, higher vampires didn’t die so easily, when he was finally silenced she gathered up the pieces, put them in a pile and then with her power turned him into an inferno that left nothing more than a pile of ash.  

Through it all she had been as silent as the grave, and it had made the vampire so very very frightened.  He had spoken, desperate to get her to stop the pain, and she know knew why this attack had happened.

It was her fault, the Unseen Elder content to stay and wait for the portal to open had felt the death of his mate.  Driven by a fear of a creature that could kill him and his people he had searched for the power to go home.

Ciri was that power, had always been that power, Takara had never asked her to open the gate to Nihvon, hadn’t wanted to place the stress of that portal on her child of Starlight and Destiny.  She knew it could kill her. 

But the vampires didn’t care.

“Vampires can come back from that,” Geralt said gently from behind her, she looked at him, he smelt of vampire blood, witcher and snow... and an odd scent under that of herbs.

“You’ve returned from where the portal took you,” she observed softly.

“Yeah, deposited us in some well armed mountain stronghold, Ciri brought us back.”

She spilt her power in hundreds of little blue orbs of fire and they raced through the room like will’o’wisps burning every trace of the vampire it found.  

As she felt Lambert step in to the room followed by the other Witcher’s, she new they had been watching, had witnessed this execution...she reached out her hand and the ashes began to glow, it didn’t take her long, but in the end floating above her hand was a rough gem, the colour of smoke.  

She handed it to Lambert, “that is as dead as I can make him,” she said.

“What did you do?”

“I took the carbon in his ashes and under heat and pressure turned him into stone.  It is said that a single drop of blood is all a vampire needs to return to life, but there is no more of him, he cannot come back from that.”

Lamberts hand closed over the diamond, roughly the size of a baby’s hand, “I think I’ll have him set into the pommel of a silver blade.”

She nodded her head to them all and stepped away, she needed air, and she needed to ground herself.  And above all she wanted her kit, she wanted to hold him, and scent the innocence and beauty he carried within him.

“Forgive me gentleman, but this death was cruel, I need to ground myself and come to grips with what I’ve done.” 

She gathered her power to her, but as she did she looked at them, expecting to see some sort of condemnation for what she had done, but in their eyes, she saw the same answering savagery that was in her.

“You don’t know what he did Takara,” rasped Lambert as he tightened his grip, “he deserved everything you did to him, and so much more.”

She nodded her head to him, but still the death had been heavy it had been hard, and while she had worn the executioners mask she had made Emmerich pay the debt, she wouldn’t regret that. 

Yet it had cost her, and she would carry the stain of that for the rest of her life, but as she saw the relief in Lamberts eyes she knew it was worth it.

 

———

 

“I need a fucking drink,” declared Lambert as they surveyed the ruins of the Bunker, and it was in total ruins, broken masonry, disintegrated furniture, twisted metal and splintered wood were strewn across torn and ripped up carpet.

Geralt shook his head at the destruction, “knowing that she could fight like that and then seeing it makes me appreciate how much she holds back when she fights us in the ring.”

“Fuck I don’t think I ever want to get into the ring with her again,” muttered Eskel, Geralt understood, the fight had been so utterly vicious, so completely bestial that it had taken their breaths away to watch it.  And then when she had literally torn the vampire to pieces they had all seen a side of Takara they’d all instinctively known she had, there was however very little on her fighting.

Except one account, Vesemir’s and how she had torn the invaders from the Pogrom to pieces, it had been much the same.

“It’s a savage justice, inhuman but then neither the vampire, nor Takara are human,” rumbled Balik, a hint of approval in his voice.

“We had better go and see the aftermath, make sure everyone’s as safe as can be,” said Varen, they all turned as one and left. 

Varen and Eskel caught Geralt up as they jogged through the basement areas, “so there were about 6 fleders who attacked after you sliced up the other two vamps, theres been casualties, thy attacked the servants quarters first, but the Impera Brigade attended before we got here,”

“We took over, but they had already slain two of them, they worked really well under pressure and in facing creatures that they have only received drilling in,” Grunted Eskel

“Hate to say it wolf, but you were right, they needed witcher tactics,” drawled Letho.

Geralt tossed a small grin at the viper, as they came into the first floor of the palace, “you admitting that is progress Letho, going to stay around and assist?”

“Don’t push your luck, but I’ll stay for a little while longer.” 

Fainrael marched up to them, looking at each of them, “Lady Takara?”

“Needs a little space, she tore him apart with her bare hands after torturing him,”

“Best thing I’ve seen in years,” said Lambert with a slight tremble in his voice still, they all understood why.

Fainrael didn’t look shocked so Geralt assumed Eskel had brought him up to speed, “The Palace is secure,‘ he reported, “we’ve counted twelve dead among the Impera Brigade, and unfortunately there were a further sixteen civilian casualties, but your warning ensured that the casualties were few.”

Geralt nodded his head, “it would have been either much worse or it would have been fewer, it depends on how vicious they were planning to be while taking Ciri.”

Fainrael looked at the others, “ his Imperial Majesty has requested that you sweep the city, there are no reports of vampires but he wants to be on the safe side.  Geralt, he’s asked for a report from you.”

Geralt knew that was coming, he wished the others good luck in their hunt, tried not to smirk at the intense look Fainrael gave Eskel, which made the other witcher actually blush.  Much to the amusement of the others, and Lamberts narrowed eyed look of suspicion. Their pup wasn’t an idiot and knew that Eskel had always topped in his sexual activities with other men.

Geralt walked away from them all, wishing he was going with them if for no other reason than for watching Lambert give Eskel a hard time.

Fainrael caught up to him, “he’s not in his office, he’s in the throne room.”

“Why there?”

“Easier to give orders from due to its central and ground floor location.”

Made sense thought Geralt as they walked quickly through the halls, stepping over several puddles of blood and then came to the massive doors of the throne room.

“I don’t care about the cost Prince Voorhis, it is immaterial considering the amount of coin at the Empires disposal. I want the treasury opened up to accomodate a military death pension to be given to not only the widows and families of the Brigade but also the families of the servants who died in the attack.” Geralts eyes widened at the vehemence in his daughters voice.

“Princess, while I certainly agree with you that the families of the Brigade who fell in duty to the Empire deserve the death pension, servants are entirely different.”  Geralt wanted to smack the man, his unctuous tone and his words were galling and as he came into the room he had the pleasure of seeing his foster daughter give as good as she got 

Ciri scoffed at Voorhis, her hands on her hips as she stood right before the robust noble, “Most of them grabbed weapons off the walls to defend themselves and each other,” she snapped.

And she was in full argument with Prince Voorhis, judging by the almost puce colour on her father in law to be’s face he wasn’t used to being argued with.

That man had a lot to learn.

“All of them had no training in how to fight, they didn’t come to work today expecting to be killed by a vampire and their families weren’t expecting them not to come home, they deserve reparation for what they lost.”

“And how will the men see it Princess?” he sneered, “that mere servants are given the same dues as the soldiers who died today.”

“Why don’t we ask them?” 

Geralt looked over at Emhyr who sat on his throne with a good dozen members of the nobility gathered around him. All of them higher members and either sitting on the senate or Emhyrs council, some of them sat on both.

All of them were watching the argument, Ciri was holding ground and she gestured to Captain Groer.

“Speak freely captain, and don’t hesitate to speak your mind.”

Poor Groer looked liked he’d rather do anything but, yet the man stepped forward, bowed, and said confidently, “I can not speak for all the Impera Brigade your imperial highness but I can say that I think you’re right, they died fighting and they deserve that honour.”

Voorhis’s face went even more purple and Geralt was concerned that Morvrans father was going to join him in the Healers wing with a heart attack, but the man composed himself.

“Fine princess, you’ve made your point, if his Imperial Majesty signs off on your suggestion I will see it done.”

“You’ll have it by tomorrow evening Prince,” said Emhyr firmly, he looked over at Geralt, and while his Emhyrs mask didn’t change, Geralt could see the glimmer of relief in those brown eyes, “report.”

“The vampire is as dead as Takara can make it, and she executed it.”

“There’s a difference?” Asked Duke Torres aep Dahy.

“Yes, she tore this one apart, slowly,” he replied with a shrug.

“Is it wrapped in silver and compartmentalised?” Asked Ciri as she went to stand near the Emperor.

“No need, Takara turned it to ash then into a gemstone, its not coming back from that.  When she returns to the palace, I’ll ask is she’ll do the same to the other two.”

Emhyr nodded his head, and didn’t ask where she went, they had seen her arrive without Emilé or Haru, she wouldn’t leave her kit for long.  

“The senate must gather tomorrow your Imperial Majesty.  It needs to discuss this attack and what it means for Nilfgaards future,” said Voorhis, his eyes alight with an unholy glee that made Geralt wary.

The guy had a card up his sleeve.

“If the princess is responsible for these attacks as she is the target then there is a danger to the Empire, and with all due respect to the var Emreis house and all that it has done for the Golden Sun... under the Imperial Charter, she cannot take the throne if she brings danger to it.”

Ohh fuck, thought Geralt in anger, not this political bullshit, not now when she was in danger, he expected Emhyr to shoot Voorhis down, but he quickly realised that Emhyr had been outplayed on this.

Emhyr stood up and then nodded his head, anger in his eyes, “very well, the senate will convene tomorrow morning. That will be all, you’re dismissed.”

Ciri was silent, her face a studious mask of calm, but as the doors closed, her face crumpled, “Fuck,” she snapped, “after everything I’ve sacrificed to come so far, this happens, he can do it can’t he?”

Emhyr was silent and then said, “Luned, he won’t win this.”

She looked at Emhyr, and then walked into him, obviously wanting a hug.  As his arms settled about her Ciri didn’t look at Geralt, but she held out a hand to him, he took it and she tugged him into a three way hug.

“I fear you’re wrong Papa,” she said into Emhyrs shoulder, Geralt heard the pain in her voice and stroked his hand down her hair. He wasn’t sure what was going on but he was very much aware that while he could fight the monsters that hunted her, Emhyr was the one who would fight the vultures circling her to take what she had worked so hard for.

Over Ciri’s silver blonde hair he looked at his lover, the father of his foster daughter, the child of his heart and saw the rage of a father and the icy cold composure of an Emperor.  

Voorhis was a fool, Emhyr would find a way to figuratively geld the bastard, and Geralt was going to cheer him on.

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 36

 

Emhyr was in a cold rage.  

In all his life he didn’t think he had been this furious before.  He had spent the time from midnight to now pouring over legal treaties and documents, this after having to organise a response to an attack of vampires, vampires for suns sake, he wasn’t feeling particularly forgiving.

He hadn’t slept.

He had barely eaten.

It was in moments like these he was at his best.  

And he was ready, he had utilised everything he knew about politics and he had formulated an argument for every possible course Voorhis took, but he was hoping that the allies that Ciri had made would cover them in the up coming debate.  He needed to focus on one single point, his own trump card, if Ciri’s allies played the game as well as he expected them too, this one point would win.

He was certain it would bring Voorhis’s arguments down like a ton of bricks.

The Senate was in session now, and Emhyr sat upon his throne in the senate chamber, Ciri beside him and dressed for battle in all the Imperial Glory that Mererid had been able to pour onto him.  He was the Golden Sun, the Black Banner, and he would ensure that they won. Because make no mistake this was a battlefield right now and he had to win it, or all that he had worked for in the last 8 years would come undone.

Geralt had refused point blank to sit in the stands along with the public, he had dressed himself in his Teshum Mutna armour, buckled two silver blades onto his back, not his usual steel and silver.  Then with a scowl had slammed the diadem of the intended onto his brow with enough force that Emhyr had been worried it might be permanently imbedded into his skull.  

Geralt had taken a position behind Emhyr, and several other heavily armed witchers took up position near Ciri, they had said if Ciri was a target she needed to be protected by the best.  Well she had the best in Geralt, Lambert and the Griffin Varen.

His daughter, who had become so precious to him in the last six years had chosen her own armour, literally. She was dressed in form fitting black and gold leather armour, her sword leaning on her throne, her hair perfectly coiffed and her own diadem firmly in place.  

A statement in itself.

He had hesitated at having such a heavily armed presence, but the very idea of another vampire attack even in the daylight hours had made his mind up, she would be protected by all that he could manage.

As the one to call the senate Voorhis had the floor and as the last of the senate members took their seats he had sauntered his way to the podium. Voorhis had called for an open Senate session, which meant that every person who could fit into the stand in the public gallery was there.  

Emhyr had frowned when he had read that it was to be a public session, it could be a tactical advantage for Voorhis or it could be an embarrassment.  He glanced about, the stands were full and he saw that Takara and the other witchers, including Eskel were there as well, Haru on her lap. She was dressed in white and silver, a formal robe dress with red embroidery, she nodded her head to him when their eyes met.

He had a feeling she had his back, he wasn’t sure how she could help him now though.

“Order in the Chamber, I call for order.”   

Silence fell at Voorhis’s words and he didn’t wait to build suspense as many would, “an emergency senate meeting has been called in response to the Vampire attack on the palace and in particular on her Imperial Highness, Princess Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon var Emreis.” He tried to sound serious, but excitement had always been Voorhis’s tell, he couldn’t hide it.

“And while the attack was repelled” he continued, “it came at the cost of the lives of men and women, soldier and servant alike.  All those who perished in the attack will be cremated with honour and a full military pension given to the families of all those who died in service to the Empire.”

Emhyr let no emotion cross his face, and with a side long look at Ciri he noted, neither did she,  Voorhis had made it sound as he if had arranged the pension and as the public applauded the move the Prince basked in the moment of public approval.

When the applause was drawing to a close, Ciri started a slow clap, and at Voorhis’s frown smiled sweetly at him, “I am glad that you have agreed to the Military Pension for the servants families Prince, after your argument last night against it I wasn’t sure if you would still agree to formalise the action through the committees.”

It started a round of murmurs through the senate and it was at times like these that Emhyr wished he had a witchers hearing, but in the scheme of things, she’d just struck first blood.  

Good girl he thought, she was sticking to his plan.

“Your idea has merit your Imperial Highness,” said Voorhis sounding like he’d bitten into something sour, “but I’m afraid that the senate is not here to talk about coin for servants but debate your claim to the throne.”

Ciri waved a negligible hand, “my legitimacy has already been approved by the mages of this court, and by Cintra’s as well.  It has also been ratified by the Great Sun, and by the birthmark I have on my shoulder.  I am the daughter of Emhyr var Emreis and Pavetta Fiona Elen of the house of Raven, Princess of Cintra, my claim to the Imperial Throne comes from my right by blood and by birth.”

“No one is questioning your bloodline your Imperial Highness what is in question is whether you are fit to take the throne, you have a cursed gift that has brought danger to the Empire and by the Imperial Charter, an heir can not bring danger and ruin.”

“Unless that danger and ruin has been judged as an exception and ratified by the senate, as has been done through the Empires history, need I remind the Senate that you did indeed ratify Cirilla’s claim to the throne,” said Emhyr, his cold tone absolute. “Her gift was questioned then and seen as a power that could be used to further the Empire.”

Voorhis didn’t like that reminder, but he ploughed on, “be that as it may, your Imperial Majesty, the danger has become apparent.  If the senate knew then what it knows now she would never have been given the Diadem of the Heir.”

Several senate members called out affirmative while one stood up flashing a white tile, an indication that he was going to speak and as this was an open senate he had every right too.

“Senator var Jerrit, you have the floor.”

“Thank you prince Voorhis, while this is certainly cause for alarm I feel the need to remind the senate that the var Emreis house has ruled the Empire almost since its inception, they have always been the power on the throne.  Princess Cirilla has shown herself to be a capable and gifted ruler while his Imperial Majesty was in the north.  What the senate must ask itself is, does the risk to her outweigh the rewards? because as his Imperial Majesty once said, in this very chamber, ‘now is not the time for conquer, now is the time where the shattered lands are reforged anew as one.’  The only person in this room who has taken steps to forge the empire whole, who has changed laws and mandates across the empire to encourage all peoples to work as one is Princess Cirilla. You cannot deny that Prince Voorhis.”  var Jerrit sat down and Emhyr knew it had only just started.

Prince Voorhis very much wanted to deny that, it was written in the set of his mouth, “I cannot deny it, the princess has indeed worked tirelessly for all the people of the Empire.  But we are talking about a threat that we know nothing of.  Vampires gentlemen, until recently only thought of as tall tales told to scare children, but they are real.  And they have set their sights on her,” he pointed to Cirilla. “We have no threat assessment, no knowledge about them, and no idea why.” 

And then the arguments for and against really started, and as it did Emhyr catalogued every remark made, every point raised.  Many of them were the ones he already either had a defence for or would have used himself.

Voorhis must have seen himself as some sort of saviour, and he was getting frustrated with the senate. He obviously hadn’t expected the resistance as Ciri had a strong support, and while Emhyr had heard reports of Ciri with the senate, she had fought tooth and nail for many of her social changes and laws to be passed, it was a true testament to the allies she had made who fought for her now.

But he could see it wasn’t enough, the younger blood in the senate liked Ciri, the older blood of the Senate were the ones who needed to be brought over.  They were the ones who were hidebound and traditionalist by nature. 

He stirred, now it was his turn, as he stood up the entire senate came to a stop and all stood with him, bowing as he stepped away from his throne and over to the podium.  Voorhis, still bowing backed away.

And Emhyr stood before them all, “be seated.” 

They sat with alacrity and Voorhis took his spot with the senate, “I have listened to all that has been said this day, and there are as many points of contention as there are points against it.  But all your arguments and defences comes down to one thing, prophecy.”

He let that sink in, particularly among those who had once sat upon his council before he had dismissed them after Stygga,

“Every mage, sorcerer, witch and peller can tell you that the white frost has retreated from this world.  That the weather pattens which had started to shift are now returning to normal.  You have listened to Cirilla’s account about her fight with the white frost and about her powers.  She has broken the prophecy and saved multiple worlds from ruin, including that of the Aen Elle, their tribute to her sits within the the palace, a planetarium of extraordinary beauty and craftsmanship.” He could see the frown on some of Voorhis’s supporters, they weren’t too sure where he was going with this.  

Excellent, the surprise was his.

This had been his trump card, it had come to him so spectacularly that morning when he had all but given up hope that he would find the one thing that could break Voorhis’s momentum.  He looked about him and kept his face as neutral as possible, “but thats not the only prophecy that surrounds my daughter.  So the question needs to be asked, does my daughters child inherit a throne by right of birth or by right of might.  You have heard the prophecy of the child which rules half the world, you knew that many worked to see if done over the last decade. The Golden Sun will rise upon the world and will rule by the blood of the hen Ichaer.” They knew the prophecy, it was the one that had made him hunt Ciri down as a child.

He paused for a few seconds, “One would think that you would be happy the child that this prophecy foretells off would be your grandchild Prince Voorhis. Because make no mistake, it is the Child of the Elder Blood who will rule half the world.  But does that rule come from fire and blood or by the simple expedience of being the next in line?”

 He very obviously didn’t like what Emhyr was saying, so Voorhis tried another tactic, “there is nothing to say that she is the one that the prophecy spoke of.”

Got him thought Emhyr, and then he smiled, it was cold and it was cruel, “but the Oracles foretold a child... they clarified the prophecy and set the signs to look for, you were there when they spoke, were you not?”

The very day that Ciri had agreed to become his heir the three Oracles in the Temple of the Great Sun had awoken with a cry, their tell that they were about to speak a vision, several of the Lords had been sent for.  

Voorhis has been one of them and of the four of them, all of them were in this room now.  It had been the talk of the Senate for weeks as they had grappled with the knowledge of a furthering of the prophecy. 

Voorhis and those five lords had seen the oracles, when in several voices that had echoed with a hundred thousand more had intoned the signs.

He himself spoke the words, reminded them of what had been foretold, “The heir to the swallow, the one who is the flash that cuts through darkness, the light that breaks the night, would rule half the world, but the choice of fire and blood or peaceful right had yet to come.” 

“Do you know what the Aen Elle call my daughter?” At Voorhis’s frown and his murmured no, Emhyr continued, “it’s Zireael, swallow, named after the sword she continues to use this day.”  He let that sink in, many hadn’t known that about her, or that the nickname was derived from the sword she had been given years ago.  And as the information swept through the room he landed his final blow, “ Princess, would you mind drawing your sword, and reading the inscription that was placed in its forging 200 years ago.”

She drew the blade, a two hundred year old gwyhry forged by the gnomes of Tir Trochair, a sword of beauty and grace and as the runes worked into it flashed she read the inscription, “‘Dubhenn haern am glâdeal, morc’h am fhean aiesin’, in elder speech, for those who don’t know the tongue....the one who is the flash that cuts through darkness, the light that breaks the night.”

Voorhis’s face went red, and Emhyr just looked at him, a slight smile on his lips, “the signs are there Voorhis, Ciri is the one that the Oracles saw, her child is the one who rules half the world.  I knew it when she was twelve and I knew it when the Oracles spoke.”

“Why was the senate not told that she was the one,” Voorhis said through clenched teeth.

Emhyr didn’t need to speak, Ciri did that for herself, she stood up, “Because I refused to be judged on that merit.” Her voice an arctic echo of his own, “I am not a broodmare and I will not be used to further an agenda, I will rule in my own right or not at all, so think wisely senators.  I will either be an Empress or I will not.  But either way my child will rule.” Her green eyes flashed her temper and her warning, so like her mother he thought fondly.

Emhyr didn’t give them any more time to think, or plot, he called on his Imperial right and overrode Voorhis as the Senator who was holding the session, “I call the vote.”

Voorhis whose face had been receding in colour went red again, but he couldn’t gain say the Emperor and Emhyr had just shut down Voorhis’s ability to argue.

He watched as the Senators started to stand up, the call to vote usually meant that they would go to booths and a private vote was counted.

His smile went vicious, he was now very thankful that Voorhis had wanted the open senate session, “Senators.” They all turned to look at him, puzzled, “this is an open session, the votes are public not private.” Voorhis went even redder, “do remember my lords” he continued, “that this decision is a decision that could change the course of the Empire, you are being watched... and judged.  And I feel the need to remind the senate, that should the vote go against the Crown Princess, that is the senates right, but I will not be abdicating.  Not until I find a suitable heir that could take the place of my daughter.  And to find one so unique... well I’m sure that will take a life time.”

It was his final threat and his only warning, and as they sat back down, some fast and some slow, most with their minds made up one way or another, he could see the wheels turning for most of the older blood of the senate.  

The mages attached to the senate stepped forward, they each held a basket of stones, they handed them out amid the talking and the gesturing as the senate started debating among themselves.

He let them, it was allowed, and looked over at his daughter, she held her own stone and so did he, Geralt was surprised when one was given to him, as Emhyrs intended he had a vote that counted in the senate.  

The senior mage directed the senators to silence and then said, “Speak to the stone, your choices are yes - the princess is removed from her position as Crown Princess, no - she remains as the Heir or you may choose not to vote, in two minutes the voting will cease and the stones will turn the colour you chose.  Green for yes, red for no and white for undecided, the tally will be taken via magic and by count.”

Emhyr held the stone to his lips and whispered no, he watched as they did the same, it was the longest two minutes of his life and when the mage directed the senators to raise their stones he did the same.

They blazed to life and he smiled, there were far more red then green, he saw Voorhis look at the room...the confident look he had been trying to project turned to one of anger and hatred. 

He’d lost.

And Emhyr had won yet again, he looked at those who had voted against his daughters right to rule.  He would remember them, he was sure that there were ways he could orchestrate their downfall.  He had less than a year to do so, but he would remember, as he watched his daughter, he realised so would she, and she was far more like him when it came to ruling than many knew.

As the senate came back down from the excitement of such a vote and spoke amid themselves, he looked up at the stands, Takara had drawn his attention, she was looking to the ceiling, amid the arches of the gothic dome. 

He looked above and saw nothing, but if something had drawn her attention, then something had to be there.

He looked at the crowd and then declared the senate session over. 

He crossed the floor, offered Ciri his arm and then as the crowd came to their feet and bowed he escorted his daughter and the witchers trailing behind them out.

“What had Takara’s attention?”

“No idea, but we all noticed her, I think we’re being watched.”

A young boy ran up to him, his fox ears pulled back and his tail bushed up, “Heika, I mean your Imperial Majesty,” he collided with Emhyrs legs and Emhyr grabbed hold of him.

“Haru, what -“

“Hahaue said to tell you, that the one who smells of mandrake and herbs, the same scent on Geralt is here and watching.”

“Regis?” Said Geralt with a frown.

“Hahaue said he’s injured, she told me to tell you and to stay and guard.”

“You did well child, you will attend me.” In other words she wanted Haru away from possible danger he thought, “Geralt see if it is Regis and be careful.”

Geralt nodded his head and turned about, then stopped, “where will you be?”

“My chambers here.” Emhyr had his own set of rooms here, as the Senate chambers were away from the Palace and there had been times where the session continued for days.  And once the senate was in session, it was often closed and therefor the Senators were unable to leave.  Each had a room and a study when in attendance.  “If it is Regis, bring him and Takara to me there.”

Geralt nodded and went back the way he came, and Emhyr took the circuitous rout to his chambers.

The servants immediately set about making him and his company comfortable, and Lambert and Varen were obviously not used to being waited on, Lambert sat close to Ciri and Varen took a spot near one of the windows, preferring to stand.

Ciri looked at Lambert and gave him a grin, “How was Ofir?”

“Hot and fff- sandy, too hot and too sandy, why would anyone live there.”

“Better than the cold and snow in the mountains?”

“Ha ha little girl, your sense of humour I see has sharpened.”

“In this environment? You bet, besides I learned from you.”

Lamber gave her a sly smile, “I’ve been told you like to tease your Gwynbleidd?”

She just gave him a slow sly smile of her own.

“Atta girl, knew I could count on you.”

Emhyr shook his head as he relaxed into his chair, a small glass of a cherry cordial in his hand.  

He observed Ciri and Lambert as they gently teased each other and saw the bond that was there.  She treated him like a young uncle, or a older brother and it only served to show him the bonds of family among the wolves.  The times he had seen her with Eskel she had treated him the same and they really did cherish her, he could see it in the way they interacted.

He dismissed the servants and looked to his left, where Haru was sitting on his haunches, watching the door intently.

“Did you stay out of trouble in Ofir?” he asked, and raised his eyebrow when Haru’s shoulders shrunk down and his ears drooped.  The kit was silent, Emhyr didn’t need an oracle to tell him what that meant.

“I take it you’re in trouble.” The kit shrunk into himself even further if that were possible and Emhyr tried not to show his amusement, “stand tall Haru and tell me what happened.”

Haru sighed, but he stood up and looked at Emhyr, his yellow eyes brimmed with guilt.

“Hahaue said that I could have gotten Emilé killed, I know that, and I’m sorry.  But now I have to be punished, but I won’t complain! Emilé hasn’t complained and he has broken bones so I’m won’t as well.”

It was sometimes hard to keep up with Haru when he spoke, he could bounce over the conversation as quickly as his mind moved, but he got it and Emhyr blinked, “how did Emilé break his bones.” 

Haru winced, “I thought they needed help when they were fighting but I got in the way, and a big stone came lose from the tower, Emilé saved me but the stone struck him and it broke his arm in six places, and his ribs.”

Emhyr could see why Haru was being punished and asked the kit what he was punished with.

“I am to help the outdoor servants while we’re here or if we’re in Kaer Morhen I am to work with the stone Masons.”

“Takara said hard work, long work and smelly work, stables, garderobes, fertilising the gardens, aiding the blacksmiths,” said Lambert, “Our little Haru has learned a valuable lesson, and Takara decreed he will be punished for as long as Emilé is unable to fight.”

“Then the punishment is just.  You’re lucky that Emilé is only injured, and you’re lucky you weren’t.”  

Haru hung his head, “I know.”

“She always had a great response to punishments Haru, I’ve been punished by her before, I remember the cesspit,” said Ciri lightly.

Lambert grimaced, “so do I, last time I ever fff - scale a wall to save your ass, and even when we were training and stepped out of line, she always had a punishment to fit the crime.”

Haru looked at Ciri and Lambert curiously, “whats a cesspit?”

Lambert just looked back at him, “kiddo, I’ll leave that for you to find out on your own.”

Emhyr reached out and ruffled the silky fur on Haru’s head, “Emilé isn’t dead, as a witcher he’ll bounce back, The healers will look after him and he’ll be fine soon.”

“Lanfare got in trouble from Hahaue this morning when we took Emilé to see him.  But he’s ill too, so he got a lecture about responsible use of power.  And she fluffed up his pillows and combed his hair, then she told him if she heard the apprentices complain about him again she would punish him.  What sort of punishments would she give Lanfare?”

Emhyr blinked and cleared his throat, looking away from the bright curious eyes of the youngster, “you should ask your mother that.” He managed to say, Ciri was silently laughing but the two witchers in the room weren’t getting why they found it amusing, the witchers mustn’t know he thought.

“I did.”

He was going to regret asking this but, “what did she say?”

“She said they were punishments for adults who were lovers and not children.”

Varen who was leaning on the wall had just drank a mournful of water sprayed it out his nose and Lambert looked as shocked as he could get.

“Then I’m certainly not telling you,” Emhyr declared, to get a rather cross look from Haru, Emhyr raised his eyebrow in response to the frown on Haru’s little face.

“But you punish Geralt all the time, that’s why I thought you would know,” Emhyr kept his face neutral by sheer will power, and was about to reply when Haru looked puzzled.  “Although I can’t hear you anymore, Hahaue put sound wards around places in the palace... oh wait I’m not supposed to talk about mating am I?... oops, sorry.” Haru looked horrified and flinched, “I need to remember things like that don’t I?”

Ciri lost it, she burst into laughter and Lambert followed, Emhyr sighed, he had a feeling Lambert was going to join Eskel in the game he and Geralt played.  If so there were going to be some moments.  

“Yes Haru, it would be good if you could remember that, but I suppose its like you forgetting your clothes all the time when you change.”

Varen just looked thoughtful, “I need to meet this Lanfare.”

“He’s the head healer of the Palace,” Ciri said with a gasp, wiping tears from her eyes.

“And Takara’s lover, I need to salute him.”

“Or interrogate him,” muttered Lambert.

The door opened, and Takara swept in with Geralt escorting her, she looked directly at Lambert, “Lambert child, have I ever decided to interrogate your lovers, all four of them in Ofir?”

Lambert jumped a full foot, “ahhh, no but thats -“

“Do not,” she said holding up a hand, “you will leave Lanfare alone, that is my only warning,” she then looked at Varen, “if you do decide to interrogate him or salute him you can both expect my creative retaliation, the cesspit will be the least of you concerns.” She then looked at her kit, “I think its time we had another talk about privacy my kit.”

“I’m in trouble again?”

“Not really, your instincts and interactions as a kitsune will often clash with what humans consider appropriate, we spoke of that remember.” She was gentle as she said it, but firm.

“Yes, but its so hard to remember it all the time.”

“I know, its hard to go against what is natural for us, particularly because you have so much more to learn as you’re learning not only to be a Kitsune but how to interact around humans.  It’s a lot of information to learn for one so young, we will discuss it more later.” She opened her arms and Haru bounded over to her and she pulled him up for a hug, settling him on her hip, “it is good that you’ve apologised my kit.  Now we are meeting with a friend of Geralt, he is not a creature you have met before, you may ask him questions if he allows it and only after the adults have finished theirs.”

“Yes Hahaue, I shall sit quietly and observe.”

She put him down but kept him near her and gave the closed door a look, red mist streamed through the key hole and as the Witchers shifted into an alert pose it solidified into Regis.

He was younger looking than when he had been in Toussaint, with wavy black hair, although there was a slight silver streak through it, his face too wasn’t as lined, but he carried himself as if he was hurt and Emhyr could see mostly healed bruises on his face.

Varen stood up from the wall, “I’ll watch the door, make sure no one interrupts.” Emhyr didn’t stop him, not many would be able to eavesdrop but it would be another barrier to any spy on his staff he hadn’t managed to ferret out.

“Master Regis, I cannot thank you enough for last night.”

Regis looked at him, and gave him a wry smile, “no thanks necessary Emperor, I warned Geralt because of our friendship.  Cirilla’s death would hurt him more than any blow from any monster and after all we have shared as friends and compatriots I knew I had to warn him.”

“Yeah right fucking chivalrous of you,” Muttered Lambert as he crossed his arms and scowled at Regis, then at Geralts frown he held up his hand, “I’ll try and be polite.”

“After what you went through, I’m surprised you haven’t drawn your sword, would have expected you too,” said Regis.

Lambert was silent for a minute and then said. “I saw you with that vampire Dettlaff, the one who bought me from Emmerich, I know not all vampires are like that bastard and I know your not, I’ll try to be nice.”

“I was the one to tell Dettlaff to buy you, Emmerich wouldn’t sell you to me, the only reason he did so was because he wanted to curry favour with Dettlaff.”

Emhyr frowned, he had the story from Geralt, knew that Dettlaff van der Eretein was the beast of Beauclair, knew him to be the one who had save Lambert.  But that sounded as if Dettlaff was more than just a lone vampire.

“Regis is here because they found out he gave warning, he’s been declared anathema to his race.” Geralt poured himself a drink and changed the topic in one smooth move.

Emhyr gestured to a seat across from him and Regis gingerly sat down, Geralt came over and sat down beside him.

“Are you in danger?”

Regis hesitated, “I am strong enough now that the danger is minimal, it would take an older vampire to take me out now.”

“Do you know why this unseen elder wants my daughter, why now?”

Takara who had sat down close to Ciri stirred...one hand massaging her left, her injured one, “that would be my fault.”

They all looked at her, Emhyr watched her as she massaged her hand and knew, “the fight you had in winter, the one that injured you was with a vampire?” 

She nodded her head, “I was visiting an old friend, far to the west of here, when I arrived they were in a panic, something had slaughtered several villages, they couldn’t find it and had no way to track it.  I was asked to help, I did so and when I found her, I killed her.  It was a vicious fight and yes for my pride I was injured in it.”

“You killed the Elder of the Ammuan tribe, Vandrien was one of the unseen Elders mates.” Regis declared to her, he shrugged his shoulders and gave her a sharp tooth smile, “Unfortunately for everyone now, he who was once content to wait millennium if need be for the portal to open is now driving everyone to figure out a way to open the portal back to the home world.  Someone who knew of Cirilla and her power told him of her ability,“ Regis ran a clawed hand through his hair, “while he wants her alive, he also said all he needs is her blood but he would prefer her alive.  This won’t stop, he will come for her himself if the attacks fail and if he finds out that Takara is here, he may decide to end her.”

“He can try,” Takara murmured.

Regis sighed, “you need to be aware that he is not like other vampires lady Kitsune, he is one of the ancients of the vampire race.  To be a primal elder, one must be over a hundred thousand years old, in fact the portal opened up the night they were celebrating his milestone so to speak.”

Takara gave him a cold smile, “age is immaterial, strength and power is what matters in a fight.”

“He is nowhere in the same league as Vandrien,” Regis warned her.

Emhyr looked at Takara, she didn’t look alarmed or worried, she looked intrigued but what she said next shocked him, “I will say this only once, I will protect Ciri with all that I have to give, if any vampire comes for her, I will end their existence, just as I ended the three from last night and your elder.”

“You would stand between her and them?” Emhyr asked, his voice heavy in his relief.

Takara levelled her eyes at him, they glowed slightly and he felt a shiver up his spine at it, “Yes Emhyr,” she said, and then continued.  “She is the child of my white wolf, kin of my clan, I have seen her grow, I have trained her, and I have loved her, my child of starlight and destiny.  She is a var Emreis and as an ally and friend I will stand by her side and between If need be.”

Ciri looked at her, he emerald eyes full of relief, “thank you Takara”

She shook her head, “I do not need thanks child, “She said gently and with a smile, “I would have stood beside you when you faced the wild hunt, but was unable.... now I will do so.”

“I got a question for you Regis”

Regis looked at Geralt and raised his eyebrow, “yes?”

“Where’s Dettlaff in all of this, he’s your blood brother.”

“He remains by his Grand-sire’s side, I was the one who left to warn you.” He hesitated again, but ultimately said, “Dettlaff and I have gathered a band of vampires, younger vampires who do not want to leave to a world we do not call our own.  We weren’t born there, we have no desire to leave, Dettlaff remains there to see if there are any others who feel the same.  When the time comes he will form a family with them, like he has with me and we will leave his grandsire to his machinations.”

“Grand-sire?” Asked Emhyr.

“Dettlaff is the grand child of the Primal Elder, he alone is the only higher vampire capable of withstanding the summons and the orders of the unseen one.  Those who share a blood bond share that with him.”

Geralt sucked in a breath, “is that why he’s able to summon all lesser vampires to him?”

“Its not a gift that everyone has, some are able to summon fleders and Garkain, but being able to summon every type of lesser vampire... yes thats the reason, in time he will be able to summon higher vampires to him.  He was born to be a leader among our people, and while he is young he has the will and determination.”

Ciri looked at Regis, “why don’t any of you ask me, I’d be more than happy to help your race get back home.”

He went to speak but Takara said, “it will kill you, or use so much of your power and strength that it will strip you of everything so that death would have been preferable.  I came through a portal Ciri, I felt the strength and fury of a magic that was alien and unrestrained.  Child those portals are wild magic, not bound by constraints.  To try and open one, could mean your life, its the reason I have never asked you too.”

“My power is similar to it, I should-“ 

Takara shook her head, “You’re not trained to harness those forces Ciri, it would take decades if not centuries for that training to have any effect on those portals.”

Ciri sighed, and nodded sitting back in her chair with a thump and rubbing her brow, “well now I know why I’m a target.  My question is, how do I stop it?”

As questions went it was the one question they needed an answer too and fast.

He had a feeling it wasn’t going to end with anything but bloodshed.... and he feared, war.