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Afraid of Silence

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It was dark. That was the first thing Jaskier noticed when he woke up. Strange, Geralt didn’t usually wake him until the sun was rising above the horizon. He cracked his eyes open only to see the cold stone walls of a cell instead of the forest he had been expecting. There was no Roach and certainly no Geralt. He gingerly sat up, suddenly aware of the splitting headache assaulting his brain.

There were shackles on his wrists, connected to a chain. He followed it with his eyes to where it connected to the wall, just above his head. He had no idea what happened to cause him to be here. The last he remembered he had been sitting at camp, waiting for Geralt to get back from hunting something for their dinner. Then things got hazy. He assumed someone had snuck up on him and knocked him out before taking him here. Wherever here was.

There was no way to tell how long he had been here. The only indication he had that it was day time at all was the small sliver of light that crept through the gap under the door, the only thing in the room to break up the dull grey walls. He strained his ears to try and pick up any indication that there was anyone around, whether that be a guard standing outside or the sound of distant footsteps. There was nothing but deafening silence.

“Alright Jaskier,” he said to himself, his voice startlingly loud in the silence, “I’m sure someone will turn up eventually. That’s how these things usually go.” There were few things he truly hated in the world. People who insulted Geralt, rocks under his bedroll, Valdo Marx. And silence.

It wasn’t long before the quiet started to get to him. It was oppressive. He was used to being outside, surrounded by the sounds of birds singing, the wind rustling through the leaves, the sounds of a crowded market, people singing in taverns to his songs. Not this pure, vast silence.

He began humming, simple tunes he learnt in his first year at Oxenfurt. It helped but he ran out of material far too soon. He sang then, working his way through his entire repertoire, adding in popular songs by other bards when he ran out of his own. His throat was sore, raw from constantly making noise to combat the quiet. He refused to stop, to let the silence win, even when his mouth dried out from lack of water. His voice cracked more and more, growing quieter with every passing hour but still he sang.

He had to stop eventually however after singing himself hoarse. Only when the light finally disappeared completely did he give up his one man crusade. He could taste the coppery tang of blood at the back of his throat and hoped he hadn’t permanently damaged his voice. He hadn’t had anything to drink since before he was taken, and his tongue felt heavy in his mouth. He hadn’t had any food either, not since midday of what he assumed was yesterday. His stomach cramped painfully, making gurgling noises that were far too loud for the quiet of the cell. The hunger was persistent, but his thirst was near unbearable. What he wouldn’t give right now for something as simple as a cup of water.

There was nothing he could do about that, however. Since the light had faded, he decided now was as good a time as any to try and get some sleep. He curled up on the cold floor and closed his eyes. He hoped someone would come for him when morning came.

He woke to the same beam of light as the previous day and the same oppressive silence. He felt the sudden urge to cry but no tears came, dehydrated as he was. He had no idea where he was or why he had been taken or who had taken him. Surely, they needed him for something. Why else would they risk taking a witcher’s bard? And why had no one come to at the very least give him some water?

He had hoped there would be something to break the silence when he woke. He would welcome anything at this point. Something to prove he wasn’t completely alone, sitting abandoned in his cell. He felt the need to make noise again but his throat hurt too much for even humming after only a few minutes.

He stood and paced as much as his chains would allow, letting the clinking of metal fill the silence while he could not. It was a poor substitute but at least there was something other than the suffocating silence. His stomach growled loudly and cramped, adding to the manufactured background noise. He muttered to himself under his breath, recounting stories from his travels with Geralt or silly things from his childhood. Whatever came to mind, he would say it out loud, even if his voice was little more than a whisper.

He didn’t know how long he paced but eventually he grew tired, the lack of food sapping his energy. The light had made its way across the floor but Jaskier didn’t know how much time had passed for it to get there.

The silence had returned now that he had stopped moving. It was almost enough to drive him back to his feet, but he knew he had to save his strength. He had no idea if anyone would be coming to give him food or not.

Had he really been abandoned here? Would Geralt be able to track him down? He had no idea where he was after all. He could be in some abandoned castle or a lord’s cellar. Although if that were the case then surely he would be able to hear something.

It truly felt as though the world had ceased to exist beyond the walls of his cell, his only reassurance that it hadn’t being the band of light tracking its way across the floor. With no energy to do anything else, he lay back down and closed his eyes, hoping to wake to some sign of life.

He lost track of time after that. He would sleep for a while, waking to find the light had moved even further across the floor before sleeping again. The night was when he truly started to feel his sanity slip. Without the light, he had no way to tell how long he had slept for, or even if he had been asleep. His dreams were of a vast black void, distant shrieks echoing around him. He may have prayed for anything but he silence of his cell, but he wished the tormented screams that plagued his sleep would leave him be instead of seemingly following him into wakefulness. He woke multiple times, although exactly how many he could tell.

The light eventually reappeared, but he had no energy to even sit up at this point. Consciousness came in fits and starts and he wasn’t sure if the times in between could really be called sleeping. He assumed he was dreaming again when he heard a loud bang, as though something heavy hit the floor. It startled him but he chose to ignore it, just another hallucination. He thought there might be voices but again, it wasn’t anything new. It wasn’t until there were footsteps running toward the door of his cell that he finally realised he was awake and the sounds were probably real. He managed to push himself upright on weak arms, leaning heavily against the wall.

There was the clunk of the lock opening before the door swung open. The light from outside blinded him, forcing him to shield his face with his arms. His mind went blank for a moment as all he could think about was that the door was open, so he startled when he felt hands on him. He tried to wriggle free but was too weak to do much but half-heartedly flop to the side.

“Jaskier, calm down. It’s me,” came a familiar voice, finally breaking through the haze of his mind. He opened his eyes, squinting against the light. Crouched down in front of him was Geralt, holding both of his arms to keep him upright.

“Geralt,” he rasped, barely more than a whisper.

“It’s alright now, I’m getting you out of here.”

Jaskier suddenly felt himself being scooped up into Geralt’s strong arms. He tried to hold on to something but his arms remained useless so he resigned himself to being carried. It was all he could do really to simply keep his head up and stop it from rolling around.

Once they were out of the cell, Jaskier caught a glimpse of the small window that had allowed the sliver of light into his cell. He could see the trees beyond the glass, the sun shining above the tree tops. Knowing he was finally safe, it seemed as though his body had decided to give up on remaining conscious and his vision began to fade to black.
“It’s alright now Jaskier,” Geralt said above him, “you can rest now.”