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Do I *Look* Like a Murderer to You??

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Sitting in a cell was no fun. The same four walls pressing in on all sides, the ropes around his wrist gradually digging further into his skin. And for once he’d genuinely done nothing wrong to deserve this!

Jaskier had been passing through the town, planning only to spend a night plating in the tavern in exchange for a meal and a bed. Of course, that had to be the same night someone got murdered. Jaskier had absolutely nothing to do with it naturally, but since he was a stranger here, he was immediately accused.

He’d been practically dragged out of his room the previous morning, barely having enough time to wake up before his wrists were being tied too tight with rough rope. He was half-dragged across town to the cells where he was locked up and left for several hours before a man came to tell him his fate. He was to be hanged in three days’ time. He had tried to reason with the man, explaining how he couldn’t possibly have done it, begging him to see sense. But the man was steadfast in his decision, and so Jaskier was left to wait for the noose.

There was no hope of escape. The only thing he had with him was the clothes he had been sleeping in. The rope was inescapable, though not for lack of trying. The rough fibres had bitten deeper into his skin with every attempt to get a hand free. He had only stopped when blood had begun to well up and drip down his arms.

The worst part was that he was going to die alone. He and Geralt had gone separate ways a few weeks ago, Jaskier heading to a bardic competition while the witcher continued on in search of work. He wondered how the witcher will find out about his death. Will the people here talk about him when he’s gone, or will he simply disappear off the face of the world?

Night was falling now, the light disappearing from the barred opening of his cell out onto the street. It was too high up for him to see anything out of other than the sky, but he could hear people passing by throughout the day. This would be his last night, they planned to hang him in the morning. He curled up in the corner of his cell, trying to keep himself warm as the temperature dropped.

He was woken some hours later by someone calling his name from outside. The voice was hushed and seemed to be coming from outside. “Hello?” he said quietly, not wanting to be heard by the guard just down the corridor.

“Jaskier, what the fuck did you do this time?”

“Geralt!” Jaskier said, forgetting he ought to be quiet. Geralt immediately shushed him from outside. “Geralt, please get me out of here. I haven’t done anything.”

“I’m working on it. How many people are inside?”

“I think it’s just me and the guard.”

“Alright. Sit tight.” Jaskier heard the sound of retreating footsteps as Geralt went around toward the front of the building. It wasn’t a big place, only really consisting of the entrance where the guard was and several cells in the back.

Jaskier didn’t have to wait long before he heard the sound of a struggle. He couldn’t see what was happening but guessed Geralt was trying to overpower the guard. Sure enough, after a tense minute or two the door to the cells swung open. Geralt stepped in, holding the keys to the cells. It wasn’t long before Jaskier was free and the ropes around his wrists had been cut away. “Come on,” Geralt said gruffly, already turning to walk out of the cells.

“How did you find me?” Jaskier asked, trailing after and rubbing at the raw skin of his wrists. They passed the now unconscious guard on their way out, slumped against the wall but seemingly unharmed.

“I was in the next town over. People were talking about a murderous bard who sang songs of monsters. I thought it sounded like it might be you, so I came here and sure enough, the tavern owner was kind enough to give your name.”

“Well then, I believe thanks are in order.”

“Don’t thank me yet, bard. We still need to get out of town.” At this point, Geralt had led them to where he had left Roach. He spotted his pack and lute, already secured to her saddle.

“Where did you find my stuff?”

“The tavern owner had kept it. He was one of the few who believed you to be innocent since you were there the entire time apparently.”

“I was. Honestly Geralt, I swear on the gods, I did absolutely nothing wrong here!” He was only met with a hum as the witcher gathered Roach’s reins and began leading them out of town.

Later, once they had a makeshift camp set up, Geralt helped Jaskier clean and bandage his wrists. It would do no good to have the injuries become infected after all. They barely said a word between them. It was only once they were both lying in their bedrolls for the night that Jaskier finally broke the silence.

“I really didn’t do anything wrong Geralt.” He mumbled into the dark.

There was a moment of silence, filling the clearing and making Jaskier’s heart begin to race. Sure, he may have made plenty of mistakes in the past but it would be nice if for once Geralt believed him.

“I know you didn’t Jask,” the witcher said eventually. “You just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. People love a scapegoat.” Jaskier knew all too well how many times Geralt himself had been used as a scapegoat for a town’s misfortunes. Any excuse to get rid of a mutant when he wasn’t useful. “Try to get some sleep. I’d like to put more distance between us and that place before they realise you’re gone.”