~ There's a Baby Roach Loose in Kaer Morhen ~
Baby Roach spent the first week of her first winter at Kaer Morhen hiding in the stable with big Roach. She wasn't used to being around people other than Geralt yet.
She thought she was being sneaky and that Vesemir didn't notice that she was there, but she had no idea that Geralt had already told him about her, and the older witcher came to the stables to sneak a peek at his shy little kelpie granddaughter.
Given Geralt's love of horses, Vesemir was not entirely surprised to hear that he'd adopted an orphaned baby kelpie.
The child, however, seemed reluctant to stop pretending that she was just a baby horse and come out of the stable to meet her grandfather properly. That just wouldn't do, so Vesemir hatched a plan to gain the child's trust. He spent a few days whittling a block of wood until he'd formed it into the shape of a horse. He then presented this rough figurine to Baby Roach.
The kelpie, who had never played with a toy before, was not quite sure what to make of the horse doll, and promptly chomped on it. Upon determining that it was not food, she had no idea what the object could be, and changed to her human form in order to communicate.
"It's a toy horse," Vesemir told her.
Baby Roach frowned and turned the object over in her hands a few times.
"Horse." She poked at its solid little body and muttered, "Tree horse."
Vesemir was mildly impressed that the baby kelpie had quickly identified the object as being made of wood, but he was slightly distressed that she seemed to have no concept of what a toy was for. It seemed that Geralt was going to need a few lessons in parenting...
"What are you going to do when your uncles get here?" Vesemir asked.
"Fwow 'em in a wivva," Baby Roach mumbled around the leg of the wooden toy horse, which she'd been chewing on ever since shortly after Vesemir had first given it to her.
"You're going to throw them in the river?"
He gently pried the toy horse from the child's mouth.
Baby Roach's little face scrunched into a scowl.
"Uncles go in a river!"
Of course, once the other witchers arrived, there was chaos.
"DAD, there's a kelpie hiding in the stables!"
"Leave Baby Roach alone!"
"DAD, GERALT'S HIDING A KELPIE IN THE STABLES AND HE NAMED IT BABY ROACH!"
"I'm not hiding her. Vesemir already knows she's here."
"Hey Geralt, what are you doing? Put me down!"
Geralt, who had thrown Eskel over his shoulder and was now exiting the stable, growled, "I'm going to throw you in the river!"
And from then on, there was a new tradition at Kaer Morhen: Uncles Go In The River. Which meant that Geralt (and later Baby Roach, when she had grown a big and strong horse form) would carry any of Geralt's brothers who annoyed them down to the river and toss the offender into the water.
After a long day of throwing her uncles into the river at every opportunity, Baby Roach was cuddled up in Grandpa Vesemir's lap, clutching Tree Horse in both of her little hands and blinking frequently as she fought against nodding off.
"Who's a sleepy baby?" Vesemir asked, rubbing her back.
"Hmm..." Baby Roach hummed thoughtfully, and then pointed at Geralt.
"Geralt," Vesemir said sternly. "It's time for you to go to bed."
"But I'm not tired," Geralt protested.
"I have it on good authority that you are a sleepy baby."
Tree Horse clattered to the floor as Baby Roach reached out her arms toward Geralt. Geralt knelt and picked up the toy horse from the floor before scooping up the baby kelpie from Vesemir's lap.
"Time for bed."
"Tree Horse is not tired."
"Good, because Tree Horse isn't allowed in the bed."
"Papa, don't be mean to Tree Horse."
Ciri's first winter at Kaer Morhen brought more changes than anyone would have expected, not the least of which was seeing Baby Roach in a different human form than usual.
After being introduced to the Cintran princess, Lambert glanced at the other girl standing beside her and said, "Who's this? I thought there was only one princess. Was it actually twins?"
"That's Daisy," Ciri snarled, obviously offended at having been mistaken for actually being related to her.
Baby Roach let out an annoyed huff and pressed closer to Geralt's side. She did not turn into a large black horse and carry Lambert off to dump him in the river.
And so he stared uncertainly at the girl for a few long moments before asking, "Are you sure?"
He knew the kelpie was older than she appeared in her human form, which in the time he'd known her had always been a small child somewhere in the range of 2-5 years old, and invariably had black hair and blue eyes. (Although the shade of blue sometimes varied, and it seemed that sometime in the past decade she'd settled on one that was very close to matching Jaskier's.)
But this girl standing before him, who he could hardly believe was Daisy - Baby Roach - looked to be somewhere around the same age as Ciri, with a similar shade of white-blonde hair. He couldn't tell what color her eyes were until she turned her head to glare at him, her face scrunched into a familiar scowl. Her eyes were yellow, with slitted pupils like a cat. When she moved her head, Lambert could see a strand of seaweed in her hair - proof that she found holding this new transformation difficult.
And the realization hit him all at once that this really was the same Baby Roach, who was apparently still shy around her uncles even though she'd spent more than twenty winters here with them. And rather than the princess, her new appearance was definitely copied from Geralt.
"Hmm," said Baby Roach.
She definitely got her communication skills from Geralt, Lambert thought.
Then she stepped away from Geralt, smiling as she walked toward Lambert and holding out her arms as if she were planning to hug him... then, at the last moment, turned into a black horse, flipped her uncle onto her back with a practiced maneuver, and took off at top speed toward the river.
"NO!" Ciri yelled, and ran off after them, as if to stop her, although the princess's human legs would not be fast enough to catch up.
Geralt sighed and took off after Ciri. Once he caught up with her, he told her, "She's not actually trying to drown him. She's just going to throw him in the river."
"And you're not going to stop her?"
"When Jaskier spent the winter here with us once, he told her to stop throwing them in the river. My brothers all complained that their new favorite game was over."